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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. rail traffic falls 6.8 percent in May


U.S. railroads reported a 6.8 percent decrease in carload and intermodal traffic last month compared with May 2015, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced yesterday.

Carload traffic for the month totaled 962,571 carloads, down 10.3 percent, while intermodal traffic rolled in at 1,049,631 containers and trailers, down 3.3 percent compared with the same month last year. Combined, U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,012,202, according to an AAR press release.

"Most economists think the economy has picked up in the second quarter from the dismal 0.8 percent growth in the first quarter, but so far railroads aren't seeing much of it," said John Gray, AAR's senior vice president of policy and economics.

AAR officials noted that May 2016 rail traffic data does not include Memorial Day, but the holiday was included in May 2015 data.

Last month, half of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR posted gains compared with May 2015. Those included: miscellaneous carloads, up 30.8 percent or 5,854 carloads; crushed stone, gravel and sand, up 5.3 percent or 4,670 carloads; and chemicals, up 3.8 percent or 4,514 carloads.

Commodities that logged decreases were led by coal, which was down 29.6 percent or 109,276 carloads. Also reflecting decreases were petroleum and petroleum products, down 20.3 percent or 11,988 carloads; and metallic ores, down 12.9 percent or 3,701 carloads.

Excluding coal, carloads slipped 0.2 percent last month compared with a year ago.

"A variety of environmental and market forces continue to punish coal, and high business inventory levels and excess truck capacity, among other things, are pressuring rail intermodal volumes," Gray said. "Railroads are focusing on what they can control — providing safe, reliable service  while looking forward to the forces they can't control turning their way."