U.S. rail traffic up 5 percent in March

(Source: Progressive Railroading 04/05/2018)

U.S. carload traffic rose 3.6 percent to 1,050,653 units and intermodal volume increased 6.5 percent to 1,082,239 containers and trailers last month compared with traffic in March 2017.

Combined, U.S. carload and intermodal traffic climbed 5 percent to 2,132,892 units for the month compared to a year ago, according to Association for American Railroads(AAR) data.

Last month, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories that AAR tracks on a monthly basis posted increases compared with March 2017. They 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.

Commodity groups that logged decreases last month compared with year-ago data included nonmetallic minerals, down 3,563 carloads or 19.5 percent; motor vehicles & parts, down 2,257 carloads or 3.2 percent; and coke, down 1,423 carloads or 8.1 percent.

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

Rail traffic is affected by what’s happening in the economy, noted AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray.

“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,” said Gray in a press release. “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.”

For the first 13 weeks of 2018, U.S. railroads reported 6,792,580 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2.6 percent compared to last year.