April U.S. Rail Traffic Increases 5.2 Percent

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for April 2017 was 2,075,301 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.2 percent or 102,397 carloads and intermodal units compared with April 2016.

In April 2017, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,023,300, an increase of 8.4 percent, or 78,949 carloads, compared to April of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were up 2 percent or 13,791 carloads compared to April 2016.

U.S. railroads also originated 1,052,001 containers and trailers in April 2017, up 2.3 percent or 23,448 units from the same month last year.

In April, 10 of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases compared with April 2016. Commodities showing the largest increases included coal, up 26.7 percent, or 65,158 carloads; grain, up 18.7 percent, or 14,612 carloads; and crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 12.9 percent, or 11,777 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 13.1 percent, or 5,929 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts declined 9.1 percent, or 6,777 carloads. Metallic ores were down by 8.4 percent or 2,083 carloads.

"U.S. grain car loadings during April 2017 were the highest since 2011, with rail grain deliveries to ports since the first of the year running 19 percent ahead of 2016," remarked AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "These agricultural exports improve our balance of trade and strengthen the farm economy."

"Sales of motor vehicles fell for the second straight month in April as financing companies have reportedly hit the brakes, tightening lending standards following the satisfaction of the pent-up demand coming out of the 2009 recession,” continued Gray. “As a result, rail shipments of motor vehicles and parts fell again in April. We are hopeful that the upcoming summer buying season will clear dealer inventories and drive up demand for railroads to deliver new vehicles."

For the week ending April 29, 2017, an increase of 5.1 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2016. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 527,830.

For the week, there were 258,476 carloads, an increase of 6 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 269,354 containers and trailers, up 4.2 percent compared to 2016.