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            may 21, 2018

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US rail traffic continues to grow


US-based freight railroads saw shipment volumes increase for the sixth consecutive month in April 2017 after several months of year-over-year declines, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Total carload and intermodal traffic for the month rose 5.2 per cent from the previous March to 2.08 million units following increases of 5.5 per cent in March, 4.2 per cent in February, 0.5 per cent in January, 6.9 per cent in December 2016 and 1.1 per cent in November.
The November increase in rail traffic followed several months of year-over-year declines, as volumes of traditional rail commodities like coal and crude oil plummeted last year amid stricter EPA regulations and low prices for alternatives like natural gas.
Carload traffic in April grew 8.4 per cent to 1.02 million carloads, while intermodal increased 2.3 per cent to 1.05 million containers and trailers, compared with the same 2016 period.
Ten of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR reported year-over-year growth during the month, including coal, up 26.7 per cent; grain, up 18.7 per cent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 12.9 per cent.
Commodities that posted declines for the month included petroleum and petroleum products, down 13.1 per cent; motor vehicles and parts, down 9.1 per cent; and metallic ores, down 8.4 per cent from April 2016.
AAR noted that excluding coal, total carload volumes grew just 2 per cent year over year in April, American Shipper reported.
Through the first four months of 2017, total US rail traffic has grown 3.9 per cent to 8.79 million carloads and intermodal units compared with the prior-year period.
"US grain car loadings during April 2017 were the highest since 2011, with rail grain deliveries to ports since the first of the year running 19 per cent ahead of 2016," AAR senior vice president of Policy and Economics, John T Gray, said in a statement. "These agricultural exports improve our balance of trade and strengthen the farm economy."
However, sales of motor vehicles fell for the second straight month in April as financing companies have reportedly hit the brakes, tightening lending standards.

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