AAR reports annual gains in October for carload and intermodal volumes


Originally Published in Logistics Management

United States rail carload and intermodal volumes each saw annual gains in October, according to data issued by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) this week.Rail carloads, at 1,338,037, rose 1%, or 12,598, annually for the month. And AAR said that 13 of the 20 carload commodity it tracks saw annual gains, including: petroleum & petroleum products, up 13,746 carloads or 28.4%; coal, up 6,828 carloads or 1.6%; and primary metal products, up 4,188 carloads or 9.8%. Commodities with annual declines included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 12,745 carloads or 9.6%; grain, down 5,620 carloads or 4.8%; and coke, down 2,067 carloads or 9.9%.AAR noted that when excluding coal, October carloads were up 5,770 carloads, or 0.6% annually and when excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 11,390 carloads, or 1.5%.The 1% annual gain for rail carloads is down sharply from annual spreads in recent months. July carloads were up 3.5%, with August and September up 3.8% and 2.6% increases, respectively.Intermodal containers and trailers, at 1,443,914, saw a 4.2%, or 58,546 units, annual increase. This was down compared to annual gains July, August, and September, which were up 6.9%, 5.1%, and 6.2%, respectively.“U.S. rail traffic in October was mixed,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “On the negative side, changing market conditions for frac sand caused lower rail carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, while uncertainties in export markets helped keep grain carloads down. On the plus side, coal carloads in October rose for the first time in five months and intermodal enjoyed its second-best month ever.  All in all, we expect most rail traffic categories to continue to benefit from what we hope will be continued solid economic growth.” For the week ending November 3, U.S. carloads rose 5.4% to 560,046, and intermodal containers and trailers rose 8.9% to 289,741 units, on an annual basis.AAR said that through the first 44 weeks of 2018, U.S. rail carloads are up 1.9% to 11,586,596, and intermodal units are up 5.8% to 12,275,918.