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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

North American rail traffic gains continued in week 26


​North American rail volumes continued to inch upward in week 26, with railroads reporting a 5.2 percent increase in carloads and intermodal units compared with traffic hauled during the same week in 2016, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced yesterday.

North American carloads for the week ending July 1 totaled 366,143 units, up 4.5 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week rose 5.9 percent to 353,457 containers and trailers.

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic reached 546,361 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.2 percent year over year. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups the AAR tracks weekly posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 10.1 percent to 87,750 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, up 9 percent to 39,503 carloads; and chemicals, up 2 percent to 31,851 carloads.

Commodity groups that logged decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 20.8 percent to 8,862 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 12 percent to 16,503 carloads; and farm products excluding grain, and food, down 6.1 percent to 16,044 carloads.

Canadian railroads reported 79,043 carloads for the week, up 15.1 percent, and 66,334 intermodal units, up 15.6 percent compared with last year's figure. Mexican railroads reported 16,747 carloads for the week, down 4.8 percent, and 11,115 containers and trailers, up 0.04 percent.

For the year's first six months, U.S. railroads reported 6,699,453 carloads, up 6.4 percent, or 404,078 carloads, from the same period last year; and a record 6,892,673 intermodal units, up 2.7 percent, or 179,515 containers and trailers, from the first half of last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 26 weeks of 2017 was 13,592,126 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 4.5 percent compared to last year.
For the first 26 weeks, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,709,721 carloads, containers and trailers, up 11.8 percent.

Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 26 weeks was 701,452 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 1.4 percent from the same point last year.

"Rail traffic indicators of the economy remain mixed. While some commodity groups, such as intermodal, chemicals, and crushed stone and sand (driven heavily by frac sand) set new all-time first half records and a few others like grain and coke set post-recession records, several other traffic categories continue to struggle," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release.  "All of this indicates an industrial economy that may not yet have a clear direction forward and one that continues to undergo structural change. It is a sign of the reality railroads constantly face: changing markets that are difficult to foresee and plan for."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/6/2017