U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes are mixed in November, reports AAR

Rail carloads, at 1,032,067, were down 0.2%, or 2,418 carloads, annually. Intermodal containers and trailers headed up 2.5%, or 27,142 units, to 1,100,815.

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United States rail carload and intermodal volumes in January were mixed, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Rail carloads, at 1,032,067, were down 0.2%, or 2,418 carloads, annually.  AAR said that nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2017, including: petroleum & petroleum products, up 11,674 carloads or 29% all other carloads, up 2,920 carloads or 13.7%; and primary metal products, up 2,636 carloads or 7.9%. Commodities that annual declines included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 12,090 carloads or 12.8%; motor vehicles & parts, down 3,704 carloads or 5.5%; and coal, down 2,840 carloads or 0.8%.

When removing coal carloads, AAR said that November carloads were up by 422, or 0.1%. And when removing coal and grain, carloads were up 2,140 carloads, or 0.4%.

The 0.2% annual decline is down from October’s 1% annual gain, and is down sharply from annual spreads in months prior to that. July carloads were up 3.5%, with August and September up 3.8% and 2.6% increases, respectively.

Intermodal containers and trailers headed up 2.5%, or 27,142 units, to 1,100,815. This is down from October’s 4.2% annual increase and is also down compared to previous annual gains July, August, and September, which were up 6.9%, 5.1%, and 6.2%, respectively.

“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 in a statement.  “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.”

Through the first 11 months of 2018, U.S. carloads are up 1.7%, or 209,718 carloads, to 12,618,883. Intermodal containers and trailers are up 5.5%, or 699,102 units, to 13,376,733.

For the week ending December 1, U.S. rail carloads were down 1.7% annually to 273,752, and intermodal units were up 2.4% to 293,530.

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