U.S. 2018 Freight Traffic was Up Over 2017

The Association of American Railroads said last week that its members moved an increased level of traffic in 2018 compared with 2017.

The railroads saw a 1.8 percent increase in carloads in 2018 over 2017 at 13,640,641 units.

Intermodal traffic was up 5.5 percent to 14,472,849 units compared with 2017.

Combined, U.S. railroads reported 28,113,490 carloads and intermodal units, a 3.7 percent year-over-year increase.

For the year, 13 of 20 commodity categories that AAR follows on a monthly basis logged carload increases.

In a news release, AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray described the traffic for the past year as positive for the most part.

“Intermodal set a new annual record for the fifth time in the past six years, while carloads of chemicals and crushed stone, sand and gravel set new annual records,” Gray said. “Petroleum products also had a mild resurgence.

“On the negative side, coal continued to suffer in 2018 from market forces that favor natural gas and renewables for electricity generation,” Gray said.

“What happens in 2019 will depend on how the domestic and global economies hold up and the policies — particularly monetary and trade — that come out of our legislative and executive branches.”

During December, 12 of the 20 commodity categories posted gains compared with December 2017. They included coal, up 12,382 carloads or 3.8 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, up 10,875 carloads or 26.5 percent; and chemicals, up 3,349 carloads or 2.7 percent.

Commodities that saw declines included crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 3,116 carloads or 4 percent; metallic ores, down 1,402 carloads or 5.3 percent; and stone, clay and glass products, down 938 carloads or 3.4 percent.

Total freight volume for December rose 4 percent to 2,118,094 carloads and intermodal units compared with the same month a year ago. Carloads increased 2.9 percent to 1,021,978 units, while intermodal volumes rose 5 percent to 1,096,116 containers and trailers.

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