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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Class Is' 2Q crude volume record not enough to shake U.S. carload traffic from year-long malaise


U.S. Class Is originated a record 108,605 carloads of crude oil in the second quarter, up 11.8 percent compared with the first quarter and a whopping 111 percent compared with second-quarter 2012, Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials announced yesterday.

Crude oil accounted for 1.5 percent of total Class I carloads in the second quarter. Based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the AAR estimates that railroads currently transport about 11 percent of U.S. crude oil production versus virtually none a few years ago, association officials said in a press release.

However, the ongoing uptick in petroleum products traffic hasn't been enough to buoy U.S. railroads' total carloads for much of the year. Another case in point: the week ending Aug. 24, when U.S. carloads declined 1.7 percent to 291,889 units compared with the same week last year, according to AAR data.

Six of 10 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by petroleum and petroleum products at 15.3 percent, but grain volume tumbled 15.3 percent.

At least U.S. intermodal volume registered another weekly gain. For the week ending Aug. 24, the roads originated 257,080 intermodal loads, up 3.5 percent year over year. In addition, total U.S. rail traffic ratcheted up 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads for the week ending Aug. 24 reported carloads totaling 79,241, down 0.8 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 56,458 units, up 6.1 percent year over year. Mexican railroads' carloads climbed 6.2 percent to 15,857 units, but their intermodal volume declined 4 percent to 10,691 units.

Through 2013's first 34 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 12,645,588 carloads, down 0.3 percent, and 10,390,003 containers and trailers, up 3.5 percent compared with the same 2012 period.