June U.S. Rail Traffic Increases 4.5 Percent

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for June 2017 was 2,179,551 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.5 percent or 94,599 carloads and intermodal units compared with June 2016. 

In June 2017, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,065,976, an increase of 4.4 percent, or 45,174 carloads, compared to June of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were up 0.7 percent or 4,841 carloads compared to June 2016. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 0.6 percent or 3,668 carloads for the month.

U.S. railroads also originated 1,113,575 containers and trailers in June 2017, up 4.6 percent or 49,425 units from the same month last year.

In June, eight of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases compared with June 2016. Commodities showing the largest increases included coal, up 13.2 percent, or 40,333 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 18.5 percent, or 16,747 carloads; and chemicals, up 4.1 percent, or 4,888 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 15.2 percent, or 6,724 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts declined 9.5 percent, or 7,168 carloads. Metallic ores were down by 7.7 percent or 2,025 carloads.

“Rail traffic indicators of the economy remain mixed. While some commodity groups, such as intermodal, chemicals, and crushed stone and sand (driven heavily by frac sand) set new all-time first half records and a few others like grain and coke set post-recession records, several other traffic categories continue to struggle,” remarked AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “All of this indicates an industrial economy that may not yet have a clear direction forward and one that continues to undergo structural change. It is a sign of the reality railroads constantly face: changing markets that are difficult to foresee and plan for.”

For the week ending July 1, 2017, an increase of 3.2 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2016. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 546,361. 

For the week, there were 270,353 carloads, an increase of 2.3 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 276,008 containers and trailers, up 4 percent compared to 2016.