U.S. Railroad Freight Traffic Declined in May

U.S. rail traffic continued its downward trend in May. The Association of American Railroads said carload traffic for the month was 962,571 carloads, down 10.3 percent or 110,678 from May 2015.

AARRailroads originated 1,049,631 containers and trailers in May 2016, down 3.3 percent or 36,365 units while carload and intermodal originations were 2,012,202, down 6.8 percent or 147,043 carloads and intermodal units from May 2015.

AAR said its findings come with a caveat. Memorial Day is not included in the AAR May 2016 rail traffic data, but is included in May 2015 data. The May 2016 data is somewhat overstated compared to May 2015, the AAR said.

“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 AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “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. 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.”

AAR said that during May 2016, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories that it tracks saw carload gains compared with May 2015.

These 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.

Falling off in May 2016 were coal, down 29.6 percent or 109,276 carloads; 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 were down 0.2 percent or 1,402 carloads in May 2016 from May 2015.

Total carload traffic for the first 21 weeks of 2016 was 5,050,191 carloads, down 13.6 percent or 792,892 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 5,417,763 units, down 1.3 percent or 70,136 containers and trailers when compared to the same period in 2015.

For the first five months of 2016, total rail traffic volume in the United States was 10,467,954 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.6 percent or 863,028 carloads and intermodal units from the same point last year.

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