U.S. rail traffic grew 4.4 percent to 2,194,211 carloads and intermodal units in September compared with the same month a year ago, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.
Railroads reported 1,066,826 carloads last month, up 2.6 percent, and 1,127,385 containers and trailers, up 6.2 percent, compared with traffic logged in September 2017, according to an AAR press release.
Fourteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR on a monthly basis posted gains in September. They included petroleum and petroleum products, up 14,750 carloads or 41.5 percent; chemicals, up 5,145 carloads or 4.2 percent; and grain, up 5,001 carloads or 6.1 percent.
Commodities that logged decreases last month compared to a year ago included coal, down 5,562 carloads or 1.6 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 3,042 carloads or 3 percent; and motor vehicles & parts, down 877 carloads or 1.3 percent.
"Weakness in a few commodity categories notwithstanding, rail traffic in September was consistent with the economy we have today in which fundamentals like industrial output and consumer spending are solid," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray.
Intermodal traffic, the business line most closely related to consumer spending, was especially strong, he said.
"The last two weeks of September were the top two weeks in history for U.S. intermodal," said Gray. "Tracking the economy and rail traffic require diligence to help identify turning points, but for now there is no indication that good economic times will end in the immediate future."
Excluding coal, carloads climbed 4.7 percent last month from September 2017.
Total U.S. rail traffic for the first nine months of 2018 was 10,248,559 carloads, up 2 percent, or 199,538 carloads, from the same period last year; and 10,832,004 intermodal units, up 6 percent, or 613,414 containers and trailers, from last year.