Thursday, June 08, 2017

AAR: Rail Traffic increased in May

by Bill McBride on 6/08/2017 05:00:00 PM

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

May 2017 was a good month for U.S. rail traffic. Total originated carloads were up 8.4% (99,290) over May 2017 thanks to big increases for coal (up 19.6% in May), grain (up 24.5%), and crushed stone, gravel, and sand (up 15.3%, thanks to frac sand). ... [Intermodal]: It was the second best May in history (slightly behind 2015) in terms of average weekly intermodal volume. Year-to-date intermodal in 2017 through May was the highest in history, fractionally ahead of 2015.
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. rail carloads rose 8.4% (99,290 carloads) in May 2017 over May 2016. The-glass-is-half-full types will point out that this is the seventh straight year-over-year monthly gain for total carloads, something that hasn’t happened since the seven months ending in January 2015 (see the chart below right). The glassis-half-empty types, though, will point out that average weekly total carloads in May 2017 (257,215) were the third lowest for May since 1988, when our data begin. (Only May 2009 and May 2016 were lower.)
Rail TrafficThe second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. rail intermodal volume in May 2017 was 1,339,417 containers and trailers, up 4.6%, or 58,665 units, over May 2016. Weekly average intermodal volume in May 2017 (267,883 units) was the second best for May in history (slightly behind 2015).