AAR report finds end of year US freight rail traffic concludes on positive monthly, lower weekly notes

A report from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) has evaluated and determined that U.S. railroads saw a 2,064,133 carload and intermodal increase in December 2017, ending the year’s traffic with a 4 percent gain over the previous December.

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“In December, total carloads were up for the first time in six months, and 14 of the 20 carload categories we track saw year-over-year gains – the most for any month in almost three years,” John Gray, AAR Senior Vice President, said. “Meanwhile, intermodal volume was up for the 11th straight month and set a new annual record, breaking the previous mark set in 2015.”

Breaking it down a little further, carloads saw a 2.5 percent increase while containers and trailers saw a 5.3 percent increase over this period. Crushed stone, as well as sand and gravel transportation, were up by 23.1 percent, metallic ores were up 35.2 percent and chemical gained 3.5 percent. However, even with the gains, there were some losses. Grain transportation was down 6.1 percent, motor vehicles and their parts fell by 4.1 percent and nonmetallic minerals also fell 8.9 percent.

Gray noted that excluding coal, grain, and petroleum–materials he said were not nearly as GDP-dependent as others–rail carloads saw the biggest quarterly gain in more than three years. Between carloads and intermodal units for the whole year of 2017, there was a 3.4 percent gain of 27,489,960 units.

When broken down into weekly measurements, though, the numbers were less enthusiastic. The final week of 2017 saw weekly rail traffic fall nearly 400,000 carloads and intermodal units, representing a drop of 6.8 percent over the previous year. Carloads saw the greatest fall, at 9.8 percent, with none of the 10 carload commodity groups posting increases over 2016. Intermodal volume was also down 3.7 percent.