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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. rail carloads fell in July


Carloads moved by U.S. railroads slipped 0.6 percent to 1,019,239 units last month compared with July 2016, marking the first decline in U.S. carload activity since October 2016, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported yesterday.

When combined with intermodal volumes — which rose 5.6 percent to 1,058,354 containers and trailers — the total traffic moved by U.S. railroads last month climbed 2.5 percent to 2,077,593 units compared with July 2016, according to an AAR press release.

Nine of the 20 carload commodity categories that AAR tracks every month reflected gains last month compared with a year ago. Those commodities included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 15 percent or 13,458 carloads; coal, up 4 percent or 13,097 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.5 percent or 1,842 carloads.

Commodities that declined last month compared with last year included grain, down 14 percent or 13,325 carloads; motor vehicles & parts, down 12.9 percent or 7,544 carloads; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 15.4 percent or 6,508 carloads.

"Beginning in July last year, certain categories of rail traffic — coal and grain in particular — saw a surge in rail volumes. That surge suddenly made comparisons to this year much tougher," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. "That largely explains July's carload decline."

Meanwhile, intermodal continues to do well, Gray said.

"July’s 5.6 percent gain is the sixth straight year-over-year monthly increase, and intermodal is on track to set a new annual record this year," he added.

Excluding coal, carloads declined 2.8 percent last month compared with a year ago. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 1 percent.

For the first seven months of this year, U.S. railroads logged 7,718,692 carloads, an increase of 5.4 percent compared with the same period last year. Intermodal traffic rose 3.1 percent to 7,951,027 containers and trailers year-over-year.

With carload and intermodal volumes combined, U.S. traffic grew 4.2 percent to 15,669,719 units during the first 30 weeks of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/3/2017