The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending December 2, 2017, as well as volumes for November 2017. Intermodal rail traffic remains on pace to set a new annual record in 2017 with strong gains in November and last week marking the best intermodal week in history, surpassing multiple records set earlier this year.
U.S. railroads originated 1,307,521 carloads in November 2017, down 0.9 percent, or 11,442 carloads, from November 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,369,160 containers and trailers in November 2017, up 3.8 percent, or 50,029 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in November 2017 were 2,676,681, up 1.5 percent, or 38,587 carloads and intermodal units from November 2016.
In November 2017, 12 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2016. These included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 16,402 carloads or 14.8 percent; metallic ores, up 5,810 carloads or 22.8 percent; and chemicals, up 5,465 carloads or 3.6 percent. Commodities that saw declines in November 2017 from November 2016 included: coal, down 22,560 carloads or 5 percent; grain, down 16,311 carloads or 12.7 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 3,877 carloads or 7.2 percent.
“U.S. rail carload traffic in November, like in October, had both a glass-is-half-empty and a glass-is-half-full feel to it,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “It’s half empty because total carloads were down for the month, and railroads of course are concerned with their total level of business. However, the commodities that were the main reason for the decline in total carloads in November — coal, grain, and petroleum products — saw declines for reasons that don’t have much to do with the state of the economy. So, the half-full feel comes from the fact that many traffic categories that are more sensitive to the economy did relatively well in November, which is a good sign for the economy going forward. The fact that intermodal grew solidly in November and will almost certainly set a new annual record in 2017 is a good sign as well.”
Excluding coal, carloads were up 11,118 carloads, or 1.3 percent, in November 2017 from November 2016. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 27,429 carloads, or 3.7 percent.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2017 was 12,479,958 carloads, up 2.9 percent, or 356,660 carloads, from the same period last year; and 12,945,869 intermodal units, up 3.7 percent, or 467,141 containers and trailers, from last year.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2017 was 25,425,827 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.3 percent compared to last year.
Week Ending December 2, 2017
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 572,794 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.5 percent compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending December 2 were 280,351 carloads, up 2.1 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 292,443 containers and trailers, up 4.9 percent compared to 2016.
Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included nonmetallic minerals, up 3,682 carloads, to 38,905; chemicals, up 1,328 carloads, to 34,689; and coal, up 903 carloads, to 90,747. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 were petroleum and petroleum products, down 592 carloads, to 10,917; motor vehicles and parts, down 509 carloads, to 18,622; and forest products, down 266 carloads, to 10,620.
North American rail volume for the week ending December 2, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 381,884 carloads, up 3.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 378,092 intermodal units, up 7.1 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 759,976 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.1 percent. North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2017 was 33,753,523 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.7 percent compared with 2016.
Canadian railroads reported 84,063 carloads for the week, up 5.5 percent, and 72,844 intermodal units, up 18.1 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 48 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 7,005,518 carloads, containers and trailers, up 10.6 percent.
Mexican railroads reported 17,470 carloads for the week, up 6.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 12,805 intermodal units, up 3 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 48 weeks of 2017 was 1,322,178 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.5 percent from the same point last year.