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AAR: U.S. railroads post 'solid' intermodal traffic in January, but carload results disappoint

U.S. rail traffic results were mixed for January, with railroads reporting a 16.6 percent decrease in total carloads but a 3.4 percent increase in total containers and trailers compared with traffic results in January 2015, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Last month, U.S. railroads logged combined carload and intermodal originations of 2,007,663, down 7.3 percent from January 2015.

Four of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR posted carload gains last month, including miscellaneous carloads, up 45.2 percent; chemicals, up 2.1 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, up 3.9 percent. Commodities that declined last month included coal, down 33.3 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, down 19.4 percent; and crushed stone, gravel, and sand, down 10.3 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 5.9 percent from January 2015.

"Intermodal was solid in January, but carload volumes weren't what railroads were hoping for," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray in a press release. "By all accounts, rail service right now is excellent, but volume just isn't there. At some point, the problems currently plaguing the energy and manufacturing sectors — low oil prices, a strong dollar, uncertainties in emerging markets — will sort themselves out."

For the first four weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads posted cumulative traffic volume of 513,716 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6.5 percent. Mexican railroads logged cumulative volume of 109,401 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.3 percent from the same point last year.

For the week ending Jan. 30, U.S. rail traffic came in at 512,746 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.5 percent compared with the same week last year. For the week, there were 248,961 carloads, down 16.6 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 263,785 containers and trailers, up 5.5 percent compared with 2015.

Canadian railroads' volume for the week was 69,901 carloads, down 12.4 percent, and 61,982 intermodal units, up 0.8 percent compared with results from the same week a year ago. Mexican railroads' volume for the week was 16,855 carloads, up 0.7 percent, and 11,141 intermodal units, down 3.2 percent, compared with a year ago.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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