Friday, October 06, 2017

AAR: Rail Carloads decreased, Intermodal Increased, in September

by Bill McBride on 10/06/2017 05:15:00 PM

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

Total U.S. rail carloads were down 2.3% (24,106 carloads) in September 2017 from September 2016, their third straight monthly decline following eight straight monthly gains. Those eight months of gains usually involved double-digit percentage gains in carloads of coal, but over the past couple of months, comparisons to last year have become much more difficult for coal. In September, in fact, coal carloads were down compared with last year, their first decline in 10 months. ... Intermodal had a good September: the last two weeks of September were the two top intermodal weeks in history for U.S. and Canadian railroads. U.S. intermodal volume in September was up 3.8% (39,482 units) over last September; for the first nine months, intermodal was up 3.5% (348,784 units) in 2017 over 2016.
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 1,044,563 carloads in September 2017, down 24,106 carloads, or 2.3%, from September 2016. Average weekly carloads of 261,141 in September 2017 were the fewest for September since sometime prior to 1988, when our data begin. September was the third straight year-over-year monthly decline in total carloads following eight straight increases.
Rail TrafficThe second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):
September 2017 was a solid intermodal month for U.S. railroads. Volume was 1,080,444 containers and trailers, up 3.8%, or 39,482 units, over September 2016. Average weekly volume in September 2017 was 270,111 units, the second most (behind 2015) for September in history. Hurricanes helped prevent a record from being set this year. As it is, the last two weeks in September were the top two intermodal weeks in history for U.S. railroads.