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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. freight-rail traffic downturn continued through October


U.S. freight railroads' traffic in October dropped 8.1 percent to 2,556,421 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers compared with the same month a year ago, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

The total number of carloads fell 8.4 percent to 112,703 units, while the number of intermodal units dropped 7.8 percent to 111,910 units during the month.

Four of the 20 carload commodity categories that the AAR tracks on a monthly basis posted gains. They included stone, clay and glass products, up 2,028 carloads or 5.2 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, up 1,543 carloads or 2.5 percent; and chemicals, up 603 carloads or 0.4 percent.

Commodity categories that logged decreases included coal, down 65,554 carloads or 15 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 8,833 carloads or 10.3 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 8,121 carloads or 6.8 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 47,149 units, or 5.2 percent, last month compared with a year ago. Excluding coal and grain, carloads fell 5.1 percent, or by 40,496 units.

"Sluggish growth abroad and trade developments are weighing on business investment, exports and manufacturing. Unfortunately, those are precisely what drive much of the freight carried by U.S. railroads, and their weakness goes a long way in explaining why rail traffic is down right now,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release.

Railroad executives are hopeful that policymakers in the United States and abroad will take "sensible actions aimed at accelerating growth and removing the uncertainty that's constraining many economic sectors," Gray added.

Through the first 10 months of 2019, U.S. railroads reported a total 22,810,593 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.4 percent. Carloads during the 10-month period were down 4.3 percent, while intermodal containers and trailers were down 4.5 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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