Carload traffic grew by 7.3 percent in March when compared with the same month in 2016, the Association of American Railroads reported.
The carriers originated 1,298,173 containers and trailers, a gain of 3.8 percent, or 47,180 units, from a year ago.
Combined U.S. carload and intermodal in March were 2,581,662, up 5.5 percent or 134,363 carloads and intermodal units over March 2016.
Thirteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw gains led by coal, up 19 percent or 63,846 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 12.5 percent or 13,154 carloads, and grain, up 10.6 percent or 11,336 carloads.
Commodities that declined from March 2016 included motor vehicles and parts, down 5.3 percent or 4,999 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, off 8.1 percent or 4,382 carloads, and chemicals, down 1.3 percent or 2,113 carloads.
Excluding coal, carloads gained 2.7 percent year-to-year.
“Railroading is not for the faint of heart, as markets are continually changing and railroads have to adapt to changing circumstances,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray in a statement. “Despite recent increases, in absolute terms rail coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and rail crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago. On the other hand, this was the best March ever for carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, and it was the best March for grain since 2008.”