Railroads Eke Out Traffic Gain in January

Although carload fell 3.4 percent in January, overall traffic was up 0.1 percent due in part to increases in intermodal volume the Association for American Ralroads reported.

Last month U.S. railroads moved 1,217,405 carloads and 1,310,141 containers and trailers. The latter was an increase of 3.5 percent when compared with January 2017.

Eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR posted gains compared with a year ago.

This included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 3,498 carloads or 3.8 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, up 3,196 carloads or 6.4 percent; and lumber and wood products, up 1,167 carloads or 8 percent.

Carload commodity categories that fell included coal, down 25,083 carloads or 5.8 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 8,372 carloads or 10.1 percent; and grain, down 6,917 carloads or 5.8 percent.

“Recent stock market gyrations remind all of us that, when it comes to things related to the economy, conditions can change quickly. For now, though, rail volumes are not flashing strong warning signs,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a statement.

Gray cited gains in intermodal volume, saying it has picked up where it left off last year when it set a record

“To be sure, we could do without January’s sharp fall in motor vehicle and coal carloads, among others, but we’re hopeful that the basic economy remains on a firm footing and that the recent turmoil in the markets simply represents an adjustment to potential interest rate changes,” he said.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 17,348 carloads, or 2.1 percent, in January 2018 from January 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 10,431 carloads, or 1.5 percent.

So far this year, CSX’s total volume is down 6.2 percent, with carloads off 10 percent and intermodal units down 1.2 percent, the AAR said.

Norfolk Southern saw its traffic dip just 0.5 percent in January, while its intermodal traffic grew 6 percent.

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