Coal Helps Drive January Freight Increase

Coal traffic helped drive an increase in U.S. railroad freight during January, the Association of American Railroads said on Thursday.

AARFor the month, carload traffic was 996,573 carloads, up 2.9 percent or 28,341 carloads from January 2016.

But intermodal traffic was down with railroads originating 1,021,068 containers and trailers, down 1.8 percent or 18,553 units from January 2016.

For January 2017, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,017,641, up 0.5 percent or 9,788 carloads and intermodal units from January 2016.

Nine of the 20 carload commodities tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with January 2016.

Coal was up 11.9 percent or 35,798 carloads; grain was up 5.2 percent or 4,570 carloads; and waste and nonferrous scrap was up 20.9 percent or 2,546 carloads.

Falling in January were petroleum and petroleum products, down 19.5 percent or 9,751 carloads; chemicals, down 3.6 percent or 4,456 carloads; and stone, clay and glass products, down 10.9 percent or 2,904 carloads.

“January rail traffic paints a mixed picture, with some commodities exceeding expectations, while others remained flat or down,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “For most of last year, coal carloads were down sharply, but for the past couple of months, including January, they’ve been the major force behind rail carload gains. We can probably expect continued uncertainty in energy markets going forward, but we’re hopeful that improving macro-economic fundamentals will drive improvement in rail volumes for many commodity categories this year.”

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