U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes see annual gains in September
Carloads, at 1,066,826, rose 2.6%, or 26,826 carloads annually. Intermodal containers and trailers increased 6.2%, or 65,801 units, to 1,127,385 in September on an annual basis.
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September showed another month of annual growth for United States rail carload and intermodal volumes, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Carloads, at 1,066,826, rose 2.6%, or 26,826 carloads annually. AAR noted that 14 of the 20carload commodity categories it tracks saw annual gains, including: petroleum & petroleum products, up 14,750 carloads or 41.5%; chemicals, up 5,145 carloads or 4.2%; and grain, up 5,001 carloads or 6.1%. And commodities with annual decreases included: coal, down 5,562 carloads or 1.6%; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 3,042 carloads or 3%; and motor vehicles & parts, down 877 carloads or 1.3%.
AAR pointed out that when excluding coal carloads rose 4.8%, or 32,388 carloads, annually, and when excluding coal and grain carloads rose 4.5%, or 27,387 carloads.
Intermodal containers and trailers increased 6.2%, or 65,801 units, to 1,127,385 in September on an annual basis.
“Weakness in a few commodity categories notwithstanding, rail traffic in September was consistent with the economy we have today in which fundamentals like industrial output and consumer spending are solid,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Intermodal, the business line most closely related to consumer spending, was especially strong — the last two weeks of September were the top two weeks in history for U.S. intermodal. Tracking the economy and rail traffic require diligence to help identify turning points, but for now there is no indication that good economic times will end in the immediate future.”
U.S. rail carload volume is up 2%, or 199,538 carloads, to 10,248,559, through the first nine months of 2018, and intermodal units are up 6%, or 613,414 units, to 10,832,004, for the same time period.
This batch of volume data from the AAR continues to confirm the ongoing thesis among industry stakeholders that carload activity has been showing good annual gains since the beginning of the second quarter, while intermodal has been faring even better, outperforming carloads, albeit by a small margin, on a consistent basis.
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman