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U.S. rail volumes sustain steady climb

US intermodal rail lines


Combined carload and intermodal shipments have grown 4 percent year-over-year through August.


Total combined U.S. freight railroad traffic in August grew another 4.5 percent to 2.83 million carloads and intermodal units compared with the same month a year ago, according to the latest data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

U.S. railroads saw carload shipments climb 3.8 percent year-over-year to 1.39 million carloads for the month, while intermodal traffic jumped 5.1 percent to 1.44 million containers and trailers.

Sixteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month saw gains in August, including grain, up 18,989 carloads (19.8 percent); petroleum and petroleum products, up 12,780 carloads (28.8 percent); and chemicals, up 11,911 carloads (7.8 percent).

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Commodities that saw year-over-year declines during the month included coal, down 15,410 carloads (3.2 percent); nonmetallic minerals, down 4,034 carloads (16.6 percent); and metallic ores, down 1,061 carloads (3.2 percent).

AAR noted that excluding coal, carload volumes grew 7.6 percent in August, and excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 6.1 percent from the same 2017 period.

Through the first eight months of the year, total U.S. rail traffic has risen 4 percent year-over-year to 18.89 million carloads and intermodal units. Carload traffic is up 1.9 percent to 9.18 million carloads during the period, while intermodal shipments have grown 6 percent to just over 9.7 million containers and trailers.

“August was a very good month for U.S. rail traffic with 16 of the 20 carload commodity categories the AAR tracks registering higher carloads in August 2018 than in August 2017, the most since January 2015,” said John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president of policy and economics.

“The U.S. economy has been improving since the 2016 slowdown and freight railroads are committed to maintaining the economic momentum by moving goods safely and efficiently for their customers.

“Still a concern, however, [are] trade policy discussions that add a level of uncertainty to future economic growth,” he said.


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