Posts Tagged ‘railroad freight traffic’

Intermodal Continued to Grow in February

March 9, 2018

Intermodal traffic continues to grow at U.S. Railroads, the Association of American Railroads reported this week.

The railroads during February carried 1,104,001 containers and trailers, an increase of 6.9 percent over February 2017’s volume.

The AAR said that during February carload volume slipped 0.3 percent to 1,028,141 units.

For the month U.S. railroads reported a combined 2,132,142 carloads and intermodal units, marking a 3.3 percent increase over last year.

Nine of the 20 carload commodities that AAR tracks each month logged carload gains in February compared with the same month in 2017. Those included metallic ores, up 19.4 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel shipments, up 7.5 percent; and chemicals, up 3.4 percent.

Commodities that saw declines included coal, down 1.7 percent; grain, down 5.3 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, down 4.5 percent.

“Rail carloads in February, like in many other recent months, were held back by declines in coal, grain, and motor vehicles,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a news release. “Declines in those categories are unfortunate, but they don’t reflect general weakness in the economy. Excluding them, carloads were up a reasonably solid 2.1 percent in February.”

Gray said February was the best month ever for carloads of chemicals and the second best for intermodal volume.

“While these are good signs for the broader economy going forward, they are potentially compromised by the uncertainty created by recent developments in trade policy,” he said.


October Was Good Month for Intermodal Traffic

November 3, 2017

The Association of American Railroad reported this week that although carload traffic on U.S. railroads was down in October, intermodal traffic set a record.

In its monthly freight volume report, the AAR said that carload traffic last month declined 0.1 percent to 1,065,777 units, but the number of intermodal units rose 6.4 percent to 1,144,157 containers and trailers compared with October 2016 figures

In a news release, the AAR said that U.S. railroads moved 2,209,934 carload and intermodal units last month, a 3.1 percent year-over-year increase.

Excluding coal, carloads increased 16,544 carloads, or 2.3 percent, last month from October 2016’s level. Excluding coal and grain, carloads rose by 29,072 units, or 4.8 percent.

Twelve of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month posted gains in October. They included metallic ores, up 4,076 carloads or 20.6 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 15,873 carloads or 16.5 percent; and chemicals, up 7,390 carloads or 6.4 percent.

Categories that posted decreases included grain, down 12,528 carloads or 11.8 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 5,190 carloads or 7 percent; and coal, down 17,764 carloads or 4.9 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, U.S. carloads in October were held back by declines in grain and coal volumes, said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray.

“However, carloads of these commodities tend to rise or fall for reasons that have little to do with the state of the economy,” he said. “Excluding them, carloads were up 4.8 percent in October, their best monthly gain in almost three years. As such, rail carloads, as well as record intermodal volume in October, support the view that the economy is doing somewhat better now than it has been in the past two years.”

U.S. carloads through the first 10 months of 2017 totaled 11,172,437 units, up 3.4 percent, while intermodal volume totaled 11,576,709 units, up 3.7 percent compared with the same period last year.

Railroad Carload Traffic up 7.3% in March

April 7, 2017

Carload traffic grew by 7.3 percent in March when compared with the same month in 2016, the Association of American Railroads reported.

U.S. railroads moved 1,283,489 carloads in March, up 87,183 carloads from March 2016.

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.”

G&W Traffic Up 27% in January

February 16, 2017

The acquisition of the Providence & Worcester Railroad last year has helped Genesee & Wyoming railroads post a 27 percent overall traffic increase in January 2017 when compared with the same month in 2016.

G&WThe P&W acquisition was completed last November. G&W railroads handled more than 138,500 railcars in January 2017, an increase of 11 percent over the 124,400 railcars it handled in 2016.

G&W also reported increased traffic on other railroads due to increased shipments of coal, coke, agricultural products and minerals and stone traffic.

Its best performing commodity in January was coal and coke with its railroads carrying more than 22,400 carloads of coal in January 2017, compared with 18,400 carloads in the same month in 2016.

R&N Posts 16% Carload Gain in 2016

February 3, 2017

Pennsylvania-based short line Reading & Northern posted a 16 percent increase in carload traffic for 2016, handling almost 20,000 carloads.

PennsylvaniaTourist operations accommodated more than 100,000 passengers, the second time in the railroad’s history that it has topped six figures.

In a statement, the R&N said that during 2016 it “had more employees, more track, more locomotives, more freight cars, more facilities and more customers than at any point in its history.”

R&N added 10 miles of new track and acquired the Humboldt Industrial Park in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, with more than three miles of new track construction.

In maintenance of way efforts, R&N installed more than 15,000 ties, replaced more than 20,000 linear feet of rail and built a dozen new turnouts.

The locomotive fleet increased by 20 percent with the acquisition of six four-axle locomotives. The freight car fleet grew 16 percent to 1,179 cars, an increase of 162.

More than a dozen new customers have come on line, most with the Humboldt acquisition, and 21 new employees joined the railroad, bringing the staff to more than 200.

U.S. Rail Freight Traffic Declined During 2016, But December Traffic Figures Showed Increases

January 5, 2017

Although U.S. rail freight traffic fell in 2016 when compared with 2015, the Association of American Railroads is optimistic that based on late-year growth that the future looks a little brighter.

AARTotal rail traffic volume was 26,587,351 carloads and intermodal units, down 5 percent or 1,389,323 carloads and intermodal units from 2015.

AAR said that for the year U.S. carload traffic was 13,096,860 carloads, down 8.2 percent or 1,169,152 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 13,490,491 units, down 1.6 percent or 220,171 containers and trailers.

Describing 2016 as challenging for America’s freight railroads, AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray noted that it was the second consecutive year of declining traffic “ . . . due mainly to a weak manufacturing economy and turmoil in energy markets.”

Intermodal traffic failed to set a fourth straight annual record.

“That said, there are signs that the economy may be gradually returning to a period of growth,” Gray said in a statement.

Analysts can point to an uptick in traffic during December 2016 when compared with the same month in 2015.

Carload traffic totaled 973,642 carloads, up 2.8 percent or 26,147 while U.S. railroads originated 1,011,870 containers and trailers, up 11.2 percent or 102,215 units.

For December 2016, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 1,985,512, up 6.9 percent or 128,362 carloads and intermodal units from December 2015.

Thirteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains compared with December 2015.

These included: coal, up 4.2 percent or 13,360 carloads; grain, up 10.5 percent or 8,663 carloads; and chemicals, up 3.9 percent or 4,599 carloads.

Commodities that fell included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 17.4 percent or 8,568 carloads; crushed stone, gravel and sand, down 4.1 percent or 2,889 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, down 5.9 percent or 1,265 carloads.

Excluding coal, carloads were up 2 percent or 12,787 carloads in December 2016 from December 2015.

Rail Traffic Rose in Early November

November 11, 2016

U.S. railroads saw an increase in traffic during the first week of November, the first increase in freight traffic in several months.

AARThe Association of American Railroads said the railroads moved more than 543,000 carloads and 20-foot equivalent units, about 0.7 percent more than what they moved during the same week in 2015.

That included 272,115 containers and trailers, or about 1.7 percent more than last year. Freight traffic is still down about 0.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

Four of the 10 major commodities groups posted an increase in volume during the week. That included grain, up about 22 percent; non-metallic ores, up around 3.8 percent; and motor vehicles and other automobile parts, up nearly 3 percent.

Petroleum products, which include crude oil, remain down more than 16 percent while miscellaneous carloads are down a little more than 10 percent. Metallic ores and metals moves are also down by almost 10 percent.

For the first 44 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail traffic is still down a little more than 6 percent.

There is Intermodal Business for Railroads to Pursue But They’ll Need to Be Smart to Get It

November 5, 2016

Railway Age magazine recently asked its experts to look into their crystal balls and predict the future of freight by rail in America.

train image2The consensus was that coal is not going to be the cash cow that it once was, crude oil might bounce back a little bit, automotive traffic will continue to cyclical and grain is profitable but seasonal.

The magazine’s experts said the railroads have done well in lowering their operating ratios through reducing costs and being more productive.

But trimming expenses will only take the industry so far and although the financial community is enthralled with the religion of cost cutting, it seldom is able to see beyond the next financial reporting period.

Comparing a railroad to a tree, the Railway Age analysis said that it may be that dead wood needs to be removed, but if a tree is to survive and thrive, it must grow.

So what will be the sources of this growth? Some analysts argue that it will be intermodal, including the type of short-haul business that railroads have traditionally ceded to trucks.

In the current intermodal market, some see short-haul business as having untapped potential if the industry keeps its pencils sharp and its costs low.

That means no $100 million terminals or expensive lifts. Trailers need to roll on and roll off as quickly as possible. It also means running short trains on precise schedules.

“In my humble opinion, short-haul intermodal (250 to 700 miles) represents the only opportunity in the near future for railroads to increase their traffic, said Steve Ditmeyer, who writes often for Railway Age. “And they only need to capture just a small fraction of the total short-haul truck traffic to experience a substantial traffic gain.”

Beyond intermodal growth, though, the railroad industry may need to learn to adapt to a challenging economy.

“My thesis beyond coal: We’re in a 2 percent-growth economy where there is less stuff moving than in a 3-4 percent economy,” said Railway Age Contributing Editor Roy Blanchard.

“Finished goods from corn pone to white goods are less in demand, so you need less raw material to meet what demand there is. Lower demand for finished goods equals fewer goods moving to market, and what goods are moving are moving by truckloads, not carloads, in amounts more fitting for smaller inventory loads. So, yes, it’s a freight recession, and the bloom is off the railroad renaissance.”

Blanchard said that pricing to what the traffic will bear has evolved into order-taking and pricing by computer model to maximize revenue and minimize cost.

Consultant Jim Blaze said the days are gone when rail intermodal growth will come at two to three times the rate of GDP growth.

Grain Traffic Bright Spot for U.S. Railroads

September 21, 2016

The Association of American Railroads said that grain traffic by rail this year has been surpassing carload numbers from 2015, with grain carloads up by more than 26 percent to 22,599 carloads.

AARThis equates to more than 250 90-car unit grain trains per week.

AAR said the first two weeks of September have yielded higher volumes of grain shipments and that during August grain traffic averaged about 25 percent higher than during the same month last year.

Grain is one of the few commodity groups in which the AAR has been posting substantial traffic increases. Coal and energy-related commodities continue to tumble.

Overall U.S. rail traffic is down more than 5 percent in 2016 when compared to 2015.

Rail Freight Traffic in August Fell 6.6%

September 8, 2016

The August freight carload traffic report is out and U.S. railroads saw a 6.6 percent decline in traffic when compared with August 2015.

But if coal is subtracted from the mix, the decline was just 1 percent.

AARThe Association of American Railroads said that carload traffic in August totaled 1,347,989 carloads, down 6.6 percent or 95,341 carloads from a year ago.

AAR said eight of its 20 carload commodities posted gains, including grain, up 24.7 percent or 23,857 carloads; waste and nonferrous scrap, up 25.4 percent or 4,182 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.1 percent or 1,699 carloads.

Commodities that had declines were coal, down 16.1 percent or 86,638 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 25.1 percent or 17,650 carloads; and crushed stone, gravel and sand, down 6.9 percent or 8,913 carloads.

U.S. railroads originated 1,327,274 containers and trailers, which was down 4.8 percent or 66,889 units from August 2015.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,675,263 down 5.7 percent or 162,230 carloads and intermodal units from August 2015.

“While August showed improvements in some categories, the big story in terms of rail traffic last month was the continuing surge in carloads of grain,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Railroads, along with barges and trucks, are a critical part of the grain logistical chain. The fact that this chain generally functions smoothly is a testament to the tremendous efforts that transportation providers, including railroads, put forth in support of their grain-related customers.”

In looking at the year-to-date statistics, U.S. carload traffic was 8,668,572 carloads, down 11.1 percent or 1,081,450 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 9,042,678 units, down 3.1 percent or 288,427 containers and trailers when compared to the same period in 2015.

For the first eight months of 2016, total rail traffic volume in the United States was 17,711,250 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.2 percent or 1,369,877 carloads and intermodal units from the same point last year.