January U.S. Rail Traffic Up 1.1 Percent

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for January 2019 was 2,554,655 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.1 percent or 27,062 carloads and intermodal units compared with January 2018. 

In January 2019, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,238,487, an increase of 1.7 percent, or 21,054 carloads, compared to January of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were up 2.7 percent, or 21,864 carloads, compared to January 2018. Excluding coal and grain, carloads increased 3.3 percent, or 22,984 carloads, for the month.

Intermodal volume in January 2019 was up 0.5 percent, or 6,008 units. U.S. railroads originated 1,316,168 containers and trailers for the month.

In January 2019, 11 of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases compared with January 2018. Commodities showing the largest increases included petroleum and petroleum products, up 12,791 carloads or 23.9 percent, and chemicals up 3,841 carloads, or 2.5 percent. Primary metal products increased 7.2 percent or 3,103 carloads.

Crushed stone, sand and gravel showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 2,118 carloads, or 2.2 percent, and coke declined 2,046 carloads, or 9.9 percent.​ Motor vehicles and parts decreased by 2,015 carloads, or 2.7 percent.

“January rail traffic painted a mixed picture, with healthy gains for some key commodities, while others continued to be a drag on overall carload numbers,” remarked John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president of policy and economics. “Intermodal volumes, chemicals and petroleum and petroleum products all continued their momentum from 2018. On the other hand, motor vehicles and parts were down in January — and overall carloads were held back by declines in coal and grain, but these fluctuations don’t reflect weakness in the economy.”

For the week ending February 2, 2019, a decrease of 9.1 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2018. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 498,288.