Both U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes saw annual declines in August, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
August carloads were down 6.6 percent annually, or 95,341 carloads, to 1,347,989.
The AAR said that eight of the 20 carload commodities it tracks saw annual increases, including: grain, up 24.7 percent or 23,857 carloads; waste and nonferrous scrap, up 25.4 percent or 4,182 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.1 percent or 1,699 carloads. Commodities that were down included coal, down 16.1 percent or 86,638 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 25.1 percent or 17,650 carloads; and crushed stone, gravel and sand, down 6.9 percent or 8,913 carloads. Excluding coal, ARR said that August carloads were down 1 percent or 8,703 carloads in August 2016 from August 2015.
“While August showed improvements in some categories, the big story in terms of rail traffic last month was the continuing surge in carloads of grain,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray in a statement. “Railroads, along with barges and trucks, are a critical part of the grain logistical chain. The fact that this chain generally functions smoothly is a testament to the tremendous efforts that transportation providers, including railroads, put forth in support of their grain-related customers.”
Intermodal trailers and containers dropped 4.8 percent, or 66,889 units, annually, to 1,327,274.
On a year-to-date basis through the first 35 weeks of 2016, U.S. carload traffic is down 11.1 percent, or 1,081,450 carloads, at 8,668,572, and intermodal containers and trailers fell 3.1 percent, or 288,427 units, to 9,042,678.
For the week ending September 3, U.S. carloads were off 4.9 percent to 273,117, and intermodal was off 5 percent to 265,709.