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AAR: Weekly U.S. carload, intermodal averages ascended to high levels in May

U.S. railroads in May originated 1,186,314 carloads, up 6.1 percent, and 1,045,880 intermodal loads, up 8 percent compared with May 2013 figures, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carloads averaged 296,579 per week, the highest May average since 2008 and the highest for any month since October 2011. Intermodal volume registered a year-over-year gain for the 54th-straight month and May's weekly average of 261,470 units was the third-highest on record.

Seventeen of 20 commodity groups posted gains in May, led by grain at 29.7 percent, crushed stone, sand and gravel at 14.6 percent, and coal at 2.8 percent. Railroads have not logged a month with increases in 17 of 20 commodity group since spring 2010, when the nation was just beginning to rebound from the recession's most severe stages, AAR officials said in a press release.

"If you're looking for a sign that the economy is shaking off its first quarter lethargy, rail traffic in May could be that sign. The list of commodities showing carload gains in May goes on and on," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. "And intermodal continues to surge. We hope it really is a sign that the economy is beginning a period of solid growth."

The AAR also reported that U.S. Class Is originated 110,164 carloads of crude oil in the first quarter, up 1.4 percent from fourth-quarter 2013's level and the most in any quarter. Crude accounted for 1.6 percent of total originated U.S. carloads in the first quarter.

For the week ending May 31, AAR data shows U.S. railroads originated 289,633 carloads, up 7.6 percent, and 242,092 intermodal units, up 9.1 percent year over year. Total U.S. rail traffic climbed 8.3 percent to 531,725 units. Through 2014's first 22 weeks, U.S. railroads reported 6,270,639 carloads, up 3.1 percent, and 5,565,055 intermodal units, up 5.8 percent.

For the week ending May 31, Canadian railroads' carloads shot up 17.8 percent to 88,441 units and their intermodal volume climbed 11 percent to 59,770 units, while Mexican railroads' carloads increased 2.2 percent to 16,410 units and their intermodal volume jumped 10.4 percent to 11,317 units.

Through 22 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 8,300,168 carloads, up 2 percent, and 6,989,755 containers and trailers, up 5.6 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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