Freight rail traffic up in 2017, aggregate rail volume up in December

By |  January 5, 2018

Photo courtesy of Lehigh Hanson

Total U.S. carload traffic for 2017 was 13,478,126 carloads, up 2.9 percent, or 381,266 carloads, from 2016, reports the Association of American Railroads (AAR). In addition, carload traffic was 14,011,834 intermodal units, up 3.9 percent, or 521,121 containers and trailers, from 2016.

According to AAR, total combined U.S. traffic for the full year of 2017 was 27,489,960 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.4 percent compared with the previous year.

In addition, U.S. railroads originated 998,168 carloads in December 2017, up 2.5 percent, or 24,606 carloads, from December 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,065,965 containers and trailers in December 2017, which is up 5.3 percent, or 53,980 units, compared with December 2016.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in December 2017 were 2,064,133, up 4 percent, or 78,586 carloads and intermodal units, compared with December 2016.

“Rail traffic finished 2017 on a positive note,” says AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. “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.”

According to AAR, in December 2017, 14 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the association saw carload gains compared with December 2016. This includes crushed stone, sand and gravel, which was up 15,632 carloads, or 23.1 percent.

“Rail traffic is a useful gauge of the state of the economy, and it shows that the economy’s momentum strengthened in the fourth quarter of 2017,” Gray adds.

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