November U.S. Rail Traffic Up 1.2 Percent

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for November 2018 was 2,132,882 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.2 percent or 24,724 carloads and intermodal units compared with November 2017. 

In November 2018, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,032,067, a decrease of 0.2 percent, or 2,418 carloads, compared to November of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were up 0.1 percent, or 422 carloads, compared to November 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads increased 0.4 percent or 2,140 carloads for the month.

Intermodal volume in November 2018 was up 2.5 percent, or 27,142 units. U.S. railroads originated 1,100,815 containers and trailers for the month.

In November 2018, nine of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases compared with November 2017. Commodities showing the largest increases included petroleum and petroleum products, up 11,674 carloads or 29 percent, and primary metal products up 2,636 carloads, or 7.9 percent.

Crushed stone, sand and gravel showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 12,090 carloads, or 12.8 percent, and motor vehicles and parts declined 3,704 carloads, or 5.5 percent.​ Coal decreased by 2,840 carloads, or 0.8 percent.

“Rail traffic was not as strong in November as in other recent months,” remarked John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president of policy and economics. “Total carloads fell for the first time in nine months, in part because of lower carloads of frac sand, while intermodal grew only modestly.”

“November might just be a temporary correction as rail customers rebalance inventories,” added Gray. “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.”

For the week ending December 1, 2018, 2018, an increase of 0.4 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2017. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 567,282.