The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending December 1, 2018, as well as volumes for November 2018.
U.S. railroads originated 1,032,067 carloads in November 2018, down 0.2 percent, or 2,418 carloads, from November 2017. U.S. railroads also originated 1,100,815 containers and trailers in November 2018, up 2.5 percent, or 27,142 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in November 2018 were 2,132,882, up 1.2 percent, or 24,724 carloads and intermodal units from November 2017.
In November 2018, nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2017. These included: petroleum & petroleum products, up 11,674 carloads or 29 percent; all other carloads, up 2,920 carloads or 13.7 percent; and primary metal products, up 2,636 carloads or 7.9 percent. Commodities that saw declines in November 2018 from November 2017 included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 12,090 carloads or 12.8 percent; motor vehicles & parts, down 3,704 carloads or 5.5 percent; and coal, down 2,840 carloads or 0.8 percent.
“Rail traffic was not as strong in November as in other recent months. Total carloads fell for the first time in nine months, in part because of lower carloads of frac sand, while intermodal grew only modestly,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “November might just be a temporary correction as rail customers rebalance inventories. However, it would be prudent to keep an eye on forward-looking economic indicators. It’s much too soon to sound an economic alarm, but there is uncertainty, especially regarding trade policy, that is causing volatility in markets railroads serve.”
Excluding coal, carloads were up 422 carloads, or 0.1 percent, in November 2018 from November 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 2,140 carloads, or 0.4 percent.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2018 was 12,618,663 carloads, up 1.7 percent, or 209,718 carloads, from the same period last year; and 13,376,733 intermodal units, up 5.5 percent, or 699,102 containers and trailers, from last year.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2018 was 25,995,396 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to last year.