Friday, February 17, 2017

AAR: Rail Traffic increased in January

by Bill McBride on 2/17/2017 01:40:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.

January 2017 wasn’t a great start of the year for U.S. rail traffic, but it wasn’t terrible either. Total carloads were up 2.9% (28,341) over last January, thanks mainly to a 35,798 (11.9%) increase in carloads of coal. ... Intermodal was down 1.8% on U.S. railroads in January 2017, but it was still the second-best January for intermodal on record.
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).  Dark blue is 2017.

Rail carloads have been weak over the last decade due to the decline in coal shipments.
U.S. railroads originated 996,573 total carloads in the four weeks of January 2017, up 2.9% (28,341 carloads) over January 2016. ...

Coal carloads were up 11.9% (35,798 carloads) in January 2017. Coal carloads had fallen so low last year there didn’t seem to be anywhere to go but up.
Rail TrafficThe second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. intermodal volume in January 2017 was down 1.8% from January 2016, as a 1.7% decline in containers joined a 3.0% decline in trailers. Still, weekly average volume of 255,267 containers and trailers in January 2017 was the second highest (behind last year) for January in history.