Freight Volume Fell in January

The first month of 2016 featured a replay of 2015 with U.S. railroads doing fine with intermodal traffic, but seeing disappointing volumes for carload freight.

The January 2016 report from the Association of American Railroads said that total carload traffic for the month totaled 968,042 carloads, down 16.6 percent or 192,747 from January 2015. U.S. railroads also originated 1,039,621 containers and trailers in January 2016, up 3.4 percent or 34,523 units from the same month last year.

AARCombined U.S. carload and intermodal originations for the month were 2,007,663, which was down 7.3 percent or 158,224 carloads and intermodal units from January 2015.

“Intermodal was solid in January, but carload volumes weren’t what railroads were hoping for,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “By all accounts, rail service right now is excellent, but volume just isn’t there.”

Four of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw gains compared with January 2015.

This included miscellaneous carloads (up 7,409 carloads), chemicals (up 2,615 carloads), and motor vehicles and parts (up 2,435 carloads).

Falling in January 2016 from January 2015 were coal (down 150,658 carloads), petroleum and petroleum products (down 12,037 carloads); and crushed stone, gravel, and sand (down 8,475 carloads).

Excluding coal, carloads were down 5.9 percent or 42,089 carloads from January 2015.

“At some point, the problems currently plaguing the energy and manufacturing sectors—low oil prices, a strong dollar, uncertainties in emerging markets—will sort themselves out. When that happens, railroads will be positioned to provide safe, reliable service,” Gray said.

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