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AAR reports rail traffic for March and week ending April 1, 2017

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending April 1, 2017, as well as volumes for March 2017.

U.S. railroads originated 1,283,489 carloads in March 2017, up 7.3 percent, or 87,183 carloads, over March 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,298,173 containers and trailers in March 2017, up 3.8 percent, or 47,180 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in March 2017 were 2,581,662, up 5.5 percent or 134,363 carloads and intermodal units over March 2016.

In March 2017, 13 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with March 2016. These included: coal, up 19 percent or 63,846 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 12.5 percent or 13,154 carloads; and grain, up 10.6 percent or 11,336 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in March 2017 from March 2016 included: motor vehicles and parts, down 5.3 percent or 4,999 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 8.1 percent or 4,382 carloads; and chemicals, down 1.3 percent or 2,113 carloads.   

Excluding coal, carloads were up 2.7 percent, or 23,337 carloads, in March 2017 over March 2016.  

"Railroading is not for the faint of heart, as markets are continually changing and railroads have to adapt to changing circumstances," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray.  "Despite recent increases, in absolute terms rail coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and rail crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago. On the other hand, this was the best March ever for carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, and it was the best March for grain since 2008."  

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first three months of 2017 was 3,324,102 carloads, up 5.7 percent, or 180,665 carloads, from the same period last year; and 3,387,680 intermodal units, up 1.4 percent, or 47,977 containers and trailers, from last year.   

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2017 was 6,711,782 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.5 percent compared to last year.  

"This was the best first quarter ever for U.S. railroad intermodal volume," said Gray.  "Roughly half of intermodal is international trade, but it's not just intermodal that's associated with international trade.  At least 42% of the carloads and intermodal units our nation's railroads carry, and more than 35% of rail revenue, are directly associated with international trade. Approximately 50,000 rail jobs, worth over $5.5 billion in annual wages and benefits, depend directly on international trade."  

Week Ending April 1, 2017
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 527,665 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.2 percent compared with the same week last year.  

Total carloads for the week ending April 1 were 259,720 carloads, up 9.1 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 267,945 containers and trailers, up 5.5 percent compared to 2016.  

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 26.8 percent to 78,665 carloads; metallic ores and metals, up 14.6 percent to 24,379 carloads; and nonmetallic minerals, up 13 percent to 38,251 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 5.8 percent to 10,050 carloads; chemicals, down 5.6 percent to 32,210 carloads; and forest products, down 4.7 percent to 10,469 carloads.  

North American rail volume for the week ending April 1, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 357,657 carloads, up 9.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 341,863 intermodal units, up 6.8 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in

North America was 699,520 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.1 percent. North American rail volume for the first 13 weeks of 2017 was 8,873,298 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.4 percent compared with 2016.  

Canadian railroads reported 81,027 carloads for the week, up 11.3 percent, and 63,670 intermodal units, up 14.1 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 13 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,818,965 carloads, containers and trailers, up 8.9 percent.  

Mexican railroads reported 16,910 carloads for the week, up 3.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,248 intermodal units, up 0.1 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 13 weeks of 2017 was 342,551 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.4 percent from the same point last year.  

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