Aggregate a contributor to rail’s record-setting 2017 pace

By |  December 8, 2017

Photo courtesy of Lehigh Hanson

Intermodal rail traffic remains on pace to set an annual record in 2017, with strong gains in November, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Crushed stone, sand and gravel as a category was a contributor to November’s gains.

In November, 12 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2016. These included crushed stone, sand and gravel, which was up 16,402 carloads, or 14.8 percent.

In all, U.S. railroads originated more than 1.30 million carloads in November, down 0.9 percent, or 11,442 carloads, from November 2016. Railroads also originated 1,36 million containers and trailers in November 2017, up 3.8 percent, or 50,029 units, from the same month last year.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in November were 2.67 million, up 1.5 percent, or 38,587 carloads and intermodal units from November 2016.

“U.S. rail carload traffic in November, like in October, had both a glass-is-half-empty and a glass-is-half-full feel to it,” says John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president. “It’s half empty because total carloads were down for the month, and railroads, of course, are concerned with their total level of business. However, the commodities that were the main reason for the decline in total carloads in November – coal, grain, and petroleum products – saw declines for reasons that don’t have much to do with the state of the economy. So, the half-full feel comes from the fact that many traffic categories that are more sensitive to the economy did relatively well in November, which is a good sign for the economy going forward.

“The fact that intermodal grew solidly in November and will almost certainly set a new annual record in 2017 is a good sign as well,” Gray adds.

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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