Thursday, September 07, 2017

AAR: Rail Traffic decreased slightly in August

by Bill McBride on 9/07/2017 04:15:00 PM

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

August 2017 U.S. rail traffic was like a glass that’s either half full or half empty, depending on your point of view. Total U.S. rail carloads were down 0.3% (4,571 carloads) from August 2016, thanks mainly to big declines in carloads of grain (down 24,565 carloads, or 20.4%), motor vehicles and parts (down 10,321 carloads, or 11.2%), and petroleum and petroleum products (down 8,362 carloads, or 15.8%). ... On the other hand, carloads of coal were up 25,926 (5.8%) in August, and carloads of crushed stone, gravel, and sand had their best month ever, with carloads up 14,506, or 12.1%, over last August, thanks mainly to booming frac sand shipments. August 2017 was also the best month ever for intermodal: U.S. railroads originated an average of 280,216 containers and trailers per week, more than in any month in history. Year-to-date total U.S. rail carloads were up 4.5% through August; year-to-date intermodal volume was up 3.4% through August.
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 1,343,405 carloads in August 2017, down 4,571 carloads (0.3%) from August 2016 and the second straight small year-over year monthly decline. (Carloads fell 0.6% in July — see the top right chart below). Average weekly total carloads in August 2017 were 268,681, the fewest for August since sometime prior to 1988, when our records begin, but the most for any month since August 2016
Rail TrafficThe second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. railroads originated 1,401,081 intermodal containers and trailers in August 2017, up 5.6%, or 73,790 units, over August 2016. Weekly average intermodal originations of 280,216 in August 2017 were the highest for any month in history for U.S. railroads, breaking the previous record set in June 2015