AAR: Coal drives freight car move gains in January

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An empty coal train heads for Beth Mine near Julian, W.Va., on CSX's Coal River Subdivision.
Chase Gunnoe
WASHINGTON — U.S. railroads ended the first month of 2017 with almost 3 percent more freight traffic than January 2016. While carload traffic performed well, intermodal volumes experienced about a 1.8-percent slump last month.

When combining both freight and intermodal traffic, U.S. railroads still managed to handle about half-a-percent more rail traffic than the same month last year, the Association of American Railroads reports.

Nearly half of the association’s 20 commodity groups posted an increase during the month of January. Waste and nonferrous scrap led the pack with a near 21-percent uptick in traffic compared to January 2016. Coal also outperformed last January's moves with a near 12-percent increase in traffic. Grain carloads were also up more than 5 percent.

Petroleum products reported a near 20-percent downturn in business compared to January of last year. Stone, clay and glass products were down almost 11 percent while chemical traffic was down more than 3 percent.

AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray says that coal has been the major force behind rail carload gains in recent months. Gray says, however, that the industry can probably expect continued uncertainty in energy markets going forward. Gray referred to January’s freight traffic as a “mixed picture” in an AAR news release.

For the last week of January, coal was up nearly 13 percent alone. U.S. railroads handled more than 87,000 carloads of coal during the week of Jan. 28, the AAR reports.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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