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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. rail traffic falls 6.5 percent in Q1, AAR says


Total U.S. freight-rail traffic dropped 11 percent last month, as both carloads and intermodal units were down compared with the same period a year ago, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload traffic in March totaled 1,196,167, down 14.2 percent compared with a year ago. U.S. railroads also originated originated 1,250,925 containers and trailers last month, down 7.7 percent compared with March 2015.

Among the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR, coal — down 35.9 percent — led the pack. Other commodities that were down last month compared with March 2015 were petroleum and petroleum products, which decreased 22.4 percent; and metallic ores, which fell 27.1 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 1.2 percent from March 2015.

Seven of the 20 carload categories showed increases in March. They included chemicals, up 5.5 percent; miscellaneous carloads, up 24.8 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, up 5.2 percent.

In first-quarter 2016, total U.S. carload traffic clocked in at 3,143,251 carloads, down 13.8 percent, while intermodal inched up 1.5 percent to 49,958 containers and trailers when compared with first-quarter 2015's numbers. Total U.S. rail traffic volume in first-quarter 2016 was 6,482,923 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.5 percent compared with first-quarter 2015.

"Railroads are still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and for some commodities, including coal and other energy-related products, it's just not there yet," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. "That said, most economists are calling for continued slow but steady economic growth for the U.S. in the months ahead. Railroads stand ready to provide the freight transportation service the economy will require."

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