May carload and intermodal volumes show strong gains, reports AAR
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Carload and intermodal volumes in May both were up annually, according to data issued by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) this week.
Carloads were up 6.1 percent, or 68,301 carloads, at 1,186,314, and the total carload average per week at 296,579 represents the highest weekly average for the month of May since 2008, as well as the highest weekly average for any month since October 2011.
Intermodal was up 8 percent, or 77,526 units, at 1,045,880 containers and trailers on an annual basis and marks the 54th consecutive year-over-year monthly increase for intermodal. The AAR added that May’s weekly average of 261,470 units on U.S. railroads stands as the third highest for any month recorded.
Of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR, 17 were up compared to May 2013. Grain was up 29.7 percent, and crushed stone, sand, and gravel were up 14.6 percent. On the other end, food products were down 3.7 percent, and coke was off 4.3 percent.
The AAR said that May is the first month since Spring 2010 that 17 of the 20 carload commodities it tracks were up annually, as that was when the U.S. was beginning to recover from the depths of the recession.
On the emerging crude oil front, the AAR said that U.S. Class I railroads originated 110,164 carloads of crude in the first quarter, which topped the fourth quarter of 2013 by 1.4 percent, or 1,559 carloads, which it said is the most ever in any quarter. And crude shipments represented 1.6 percent of total originated carloads for U.S. rail traffic in the first quarter.
“If you’re looking for a sign that the economy is shaking off its first quarter lethargy, rail traffic in May could be that sign,” said AAR Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “Crushed stone, steel, motor vehicles, lumber, chemicals— the list of commodities showing carload gains in May goes on and on. And intermodal continues to surge. All in all, there’s very little to dislike about May’s rail traffic figures. We hope it really is a sign that the economy is beginning a period of solid growth.”
For the week ending May 31, the AAR reported that U.S. railroads originated 289,633 carloads for a 6.3 percent annual gain, and intermodal was up 9.1 percent at 242,092 units.
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