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4/2/2015



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: Mixed message seen in first-quarter U.S. rail traffic


Total U.S. railroad traffic produced mixed results in first-quarter 2015, with carloads ticking up 0.3 percent to 3,367,082, while intermodal containers and trailers rose 0.1 percent to 3,018,598 units compared with 2014's first-quarter traffic, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported yesterday.

Total rail volume for U.S. railroads in the first quarter was 6,385,680 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.2 percent from the same point last year.

Last month, eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR posted gains compared with March 2014. Those included grain, up 10.9 percent; metallic ores, up 19.1 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 1.8 percent. Commodities that saw declines last month compared with a year ago were coal, down 6.9 percent; primary metal products, down 16.2 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 7 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads decreased 1.2 percent in March 2015 compared with March 2014. When both coal and grain are excluded, U.S. carloads were down 2.8 percent last month.

"Like other key economic indicators, rail traffic is presenting a mixed message," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. "Rail intermodal traffic rebounded well in March, but many carload commodities did not. Coal is facing a number of headwinds. There are risks going forward, to be sure, but for now we see no reason to think that the economy won’t continue its recent pattern of relatively modest growth."

Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 28 was 563,280 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.7 percent compared with the same week a year ago. Two of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases during the week: Grain, up 3.5 percent to 22,776 carloads; and farm products, up 2.3 percent to 17,454 carloads.

Canadian railroads posted traffic increases during the week: Carloads rose 0.9 percent to 82,074, while intermodal spiked 13.4 percent to 63,365 units, compared with the same week in 2014. For the first quarter, Canadian railroads reported cumulative traffic volume of 1,627,157 carloads, containers and trailers, an 8.4 percent increase.

Mexican railroads reported 17,683 carloads for the week, a 4.3 percent increase; and 10,479 intermodal units, a 9.2 percent increase. For the quarter, Mexican railroads posted 320,347 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 3.5 percent compared with first-quarter 2014.



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