January Rail Traffic Remains Relatively Flat

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for January 2018 was 2,527,546 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.1 percent or 1,752 carloads and intermodal units compared with January 2017. 

In January 2018, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,217,405, a decrease of 3.4 percent, or 42,431 carloads, compared to January of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 2.1 percent, or 17,348 carloads compared to January 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads decreased 1.5 percent or 10,431 carloads for the month.

Intermodal volume in January 2018 was up 3.5 percent, or 44,183 units. U.S. railroads originated 1,310,141 containers and trailers for the month.

In January 2018, 8 of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases compared with January 2017. Commodities showing the largest increases included crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 3,498 carloads or 3.8 percent; petroleum & petroleum products, up 6.4 percent, or 3,196 carloads; and lumber & wood products, up 8 percent, or 1,167 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 25,083 carloads, or 5.8 percent, and motor vehicles & parts declined 8,372 carloads or 10.1 percent. Grain was down 6,917 carloads or 5.8 percent.​

“Recent stock market gyrations remind all of us that, when it comes to things related to the economy, conditions can change quickly," said John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president. “For now, though, rail volumes are not flashing strong warning signs.”

“In January, intermodal picked up where it left off last year, when it set a new annual record, and several carload categories showed gains for the month,” continued Gray. “To be sure, we could do without January's sharp fall in motor vehicle and coal carloads, among others, but we're hopeful that the basic economy remains on a firm footing and that the recent turmoil in the markets simply represents an adjustment to potential interest rate changes."

For the week ending February 3, 2017, an increase of 2.5 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2016. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 547,993. 

For the week, there were 265,157 carloads, a decrease of 1.4 percent compared with the same week in 2017. U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 282,836 containers and trailers, up 6.3 percent compared to 2016.