AAR: Nine of 20 commodity groups ticket upward in November

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WASHINGTON — The Association of American Railroads today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 1, 2018, as well as volumes for November 2018.

U.S. railroads originated 1,032,067 carloads in November 2018, down 0.2 percent, or 2,418 carloads, from November 2017. U.S. railroads also originated 1,100,815 containers and trailers in November 2018, up 2.5 percent, or 27,142 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in November 2018 were 2,132,882, up 1.2 percent, or 24,724 carloads and intermodal units from November 2017.

In November 2018, nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2017. These included: petroleum and petroleum products, up 11,674 carloads or 29 percent; all other carloads, up 2,920 carloads or 13.7 percent; and primary metal products, up 2,636 carloads or 7.9 percent. Commodities that saw declines in November 2018 from November 2017 included: crushed stone, sand, and gravel, down 12,090 carloads or 12.8 percent; motor vehicles & parts, down 3,704 carloads or 5.5 percent; and coal, down 2,840 carloads or 0.8 percent.

“Rail traffic was not as strong in November as in other recent months. Total carloads fell for the first time in nine months, in part because of lower carloads of frac sand, while intermodal grew only modestly,” AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray says. “November might just be a temporary correction as rail customers rebalance inventories. However, it would be prudent to keep an eye on forward-looking economic indicators. It’s much too soon to sound an economic alarm, but there is uncertainty, especially regarding trade policy, that is causing volatility in markets railroads serve.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 422 carloads, or 0.1 percent, in November 2018 from November 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 2,140 carloads, or 0.4 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2018 was 12,618,663 carloads, up 1.7 percent, or 209,718 carloads, from the same period last year; and 13,376,733 intermodal units, up 5.5 percent, or 699,102 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2018 was 25,995,396 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to last year.

Week Ending December 1, 2018
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 567,282 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.4 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending Dec. 1 were 273,752 carloads, down 1.7 percent compared with the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 293,530 containers and trailers, up 2.4 percent compared to 2017.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included metallic ores and metals, up 2,843 carloads, to 25,204; petroleum and petroleum products, up 2,689 carloads, to 13,599; and forest products, up 555 carloads, to 11,175. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2017 included grain, down 3,288 carloads, to 22,424; non-metallic minerals, down 2,982 carloads, to 34,369; and coal, down 2,748 carloads, to 88,009.

North American rail volume for the week ending Dec. 1, 2018, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 383,533 carloads, down 0.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 382,810 intermodal units, up 0.9 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 766,343 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.3 percent. North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2018 was 35,122,715 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.3 percent compared with 2017.

Canadian railroads reported 88,579 carloads for the week, up 5.6 percent, and 70,838 intermodal units, down 2.5 percent compared with the same week in 2017. For the first 48 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 7,266,602 carloads, containers and trailers, up 3.8 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 21,202 carloads for the week, down 4.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 18,442 intermodal units, down 8.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 48 weeks of 2018 was 1,860,717 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.

— An Association of American Railroads news release. Dec. 5, 2018

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