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AAR: August 'very good' for U.S. rail traffic

U.S. rail traffic rose 4.5 percent in August compared with the same month a year ago, according to Association of American Railroads' (AAR) data.

U.S. railroads moved 2,828,946 carloads and intermodal units during the month. Carload activity rose 3.8 percent to 1,386,026 units, while intermodal volume climbed 5.1 percent to 1,442,920 containers and trailers compared with August 2017, AAR reported in a press release.

Last month, 16 of the 20 carload commodity categories that AAR tracks each month posted carload gains compared with a year ago. They included grain, up 18,989 carloads or 19.8 percent; petroleum & petroleum products, up 12,780 carloads or 28.8 percent; and chemicals, up 11,911 carloads or 7.8 percent.

Commodities that posted decreases last month from August 2017 included coal, down 15,410 carloads or 3.2 percent; nonmetallic minerals, down 4,034 carloads or 16.6 percent; and metallic ores, down 1,061 carloads or 3.2 percent.

August was "a very good month for U.S. rail traffic," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray.

"The U.S. economy has been improving since the 2016 slow down and freight railroads are committed to maintaining the economic momentum by moving goods safely and efficiently for their customers," said Gray. "Still a concern, however, are trade policy discussions that add a level of uncertainty to future economic growth.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 65,745 carloads, or 7.6 percent, in August 2018 from August 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 46,756 carloads, or 6.1 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first eight months of 2018 was 9,181,733 carloads, up 1.9 percent, or 172,712 carloads, from the same period last year; and 9,704,619 intermodal units, up 6 percent, or 547,613 containers and trailers, from last year.

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