U.S. rail freight traffic drops 1.8 percent in February

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports that U.S. railroads originated 999,978 carloads in February 2019, down 2.7 percent, or 28,238 carloads, from January 2018. U.S. railroads also originated 1,094,499 containers and trailers in February 2019, down 0.9 percent, or 9,513 units, from the same month last year.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in February 2019 were 2,094,477, down 1.8 percent, or 37,751 carloads and intermodal units from February 2018.

In February 2019, eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with February 2018. These included: petroleum & petroleum products, up 8,269 carloads or 20.5 percent; primary metal products, up 1,378 carloads or 3.7 percent; and pulp & paper products, up 1,165 carloads or 5.5 percent.

Commodities that saw declines in February 2019 from February 2018 included: coal, down 22,945 carloads or 6.7 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 6,190 carloads or 6.9 percent; and grain mill products, down 2,262 carloads or 5.9 percent.

“It’s impossible to know how much of the sluggishness in rail volumes in February was due to weather and how much was due to weakness in the overall economy, but it seems likely that weather played a role,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Every winter causes problems for railroads, but this past February on average was noticeably colder than last year in much of the country and that may have been enough to pull rail volumes below last year. That said, trade-related uncertainty hasn’t helped, nor has the economic uncertainty engendered by perceived softness in parts of the economy.”

Source: AAR

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