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U.S. rail traffic rose 4.2 percent in February

U.S. railroads moved 2,112,479 carloads and intermodal units in February, a 4.2 percent increase from traffic totals in February 2016, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported yesterday. Carload traffic last month rose 6.7 percent to 1,044,040 units compared with the same month last year. U.S. railroads also originated 1,068,439 containers and trailers in February, up 1.8 percent from the same month last year. Eleven of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR on a monthly basis showed carload gains last month compared with February 2016. These included coal, up 19.2 percent or 57,589 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 13.1 percent or 10,091 carloads; and primary metal products, up 6.8 percent or 2,357 carloads. Commodity categories that posted decreases last month compared with a year ago included petroleum and petroleum products, down 12.4 percent or 5,543 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 4.8 percent or 3,746 carloads; and metallic ores, down 19.1 percent or 2,793 carloads. Excluding coal, carloads in February inched up 1.1 percent compared with last year. The 19.2 percent increase in coal carloads last month was the highest percentage gain for coal since before 1988 when AAR's current record series began, said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray in a press release. "While it's an impressive gain, February 2017 was, unfortunately, also the second worst February in absolute terms for coal since sometime before 1988," Gray added. "It's all too representative of the challenges railroads are facing as their markets change. However, these same market changes are offering new opportunities. Over the past 15 years, the industry has worked hard to create a solid foundation to exploit these opportunities." Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending Feb. 25 was 521,451 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Canadian railroads reported 78,200 carloads for the week, up 10.3 percent, and 64,428 intermodal units, up 5.2 percent compared with the same week in 2016. Mexican railroads reported 16,772 carloads for the week, down 2.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,824 intermodal units, down 6.4 percent. For the first eight weeks of 2017: U.S. railroads logged 4,130,120 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2.3 percent compared with the same period a year ago; Canadian railroads reported 1,113,463 carloads, containers and trailers, up 7.5 percent; and Mexican railroads posted 203,267 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 6.9 percent from the same point last year. Meanwhile, U.S. Class I railroads originated 43,293 carloads of crude oil in fourth-quarter 2016, a 49 percent decrease from carloads moved in fourth-quarter 2015, the AAR reported.

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