Carload, Intermodal Traffic Rose in March

U.S. railroads posted increases in carload and intermodal traffic in March, with about half of the categories tracked by the Association of American Railroads posting gains.

AAR said the railroads originated 1,050,653 carloads in March 2018, an increase of 3.6 percent, or 36,157 carloads, from March 2017.

U.S. railroads also originated 1,082,239 containers and trailers in March 2018, up 6.5 percent, or 66,151 units, from the same month last year.

The combined carload and intermodal originations in March 2018 were 2,132,892, up 5 percent, or 102,308 carloads and intermodal units from March 2017.

Commodities posting increases during March when compared with the same month a year ago included coal, up 24,867 carloads or 7.9 percent; chemicals, up 7,492 carloads or 5.9 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 7,124 carloads or 8 percent.

Seeing declines were non-metallic minerals, down 3,563 carloads or 19.5 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 2,257 carloads or 3.2 percent; and coke, down 1,423 carloads or 8.1 percent.

“Railroads are a derived-demand industry,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray in a news release.

“Their level of business depends to a large degree on what’s happening elsewhere in the economy. There’s always some economic uncertainty — today that involves, among other things, trade relations, commodity prices, and what the Fed will do about interest rates — but economic signals today are mostly positive. Rail traffic in March was largely positive, too, at least in terms of traffic segments that are most sensitive to what’s going on in the economy.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 11,290 carloads, or 1.6 percent, in March 2018 when compared to March 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 11,042 carloads, or 1.8 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first three months of 2018 have been 3,296,199 carloads, down 0.3 percent, or 9,027 carloads, from the same period last year; and 3,496,381 intermodal units, up 5.5 percent, or 181,304 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2018 was 6,792,580 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2.6 percent compared to last year.

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