uploads///US Carloads

US Rail Freight Traffic Derailed in Week 52

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Jan. 12 2018, Updated 8:06 a.m. ET

US rail freight traffic in week 52

On January 3, 2018, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) published the weekly traffic data related to North American rail carriers. The weekly data was for the 52nd week of 2017 (ended December 30, 2017).

The year proved to be a better year for US rail freight (UNP) traffic, though freight volumes were still lower than the levels we saw in 2014 and 2015.

That said, the 52md week of 2017 wasn’t great for US rail freight carriers (XTN). Carload traffic and intermodal units fell 6.8%, and railroads hauled only 397,000 railcars, compared with ~426,000 units during the same week one year ago. Carload traffic declined ~10%, while intermodal volumes fell 3.7%.

None of the ten carload commodity groups reported a rise over the corresponding week of last year. Commodity groups that registered lower volumes on a YoY (year-over-year) basis included coal (BTU), grain, and chemicals (HUN).

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Volumes for the 52nd week of 2017

The total US carload traffic in 2017 came to 13.4 million carloads, which was 2.9%, or ~381,300 carloads higher than during last year. US rail carriers hauled 14.0 million intermodal units, reflecting a rise of ~4%, or ~521,100 containers and trailers on a YoY (year-over-year) basis. The total combined US traffic for 2017 was 27.5 million carloads and intermodal units—3.4% higher than in 2016.

Commenting on 2017’s freight traffic data, AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray stated: “Rail traffic finished 2017 on a positive note. 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. Meanwhile, intermodal volume was up for the 11th-straight month and set a new annual record, breaking the previous mark set in 2015.”

In the next part, we’ll consider BNSF Railway’s (BRK-B) freight data for the 52nd week of 2017.

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