U.S. rail intermodal volume totaled a record 12.8 million containers and trailers in 2013, up 4.6 percent or 564,276 units, over 2012. Carloads totaled 14.6 million in 2013, down 0.5 percent or 76,784 carloads, from 2012. Intermodal volume in 2013 was the highest on record, surpassing the record high totals of 2006 by 549,471 units.
In 2013, 11 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked annually by AAR saw increases on U.S. railroads compared with 2012. The categories with sizable gains were: petroleum and petroleum products, up 167,868 carloads or 31.1 percent; crushed stone, gravel and sand, up 81,023 carloads or 8.3 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 41,166 carloads or 5.1 percent, and waste and nonferrous scrap, up 14,472 carloads or 9.1 percent.
The commodities with the largest carload declines in 2013 compared with 2012 were: coal, down 256,751 carloads or 4.3 percent; grain, down 81,309 carloads or 8 percent, and metallic ores, down 37,068 carloads or 9.9 percent. However, excluding coal and grain, those U.S. rail carloads which are reflective of the economy were up 261,276 carloads or 3.4 percent in 2013 over 2012.
"2013 ended the way it began "” strong intermodal, weak coal, and mixed performance for other commodities, resulting in a year for rail traffic that could have been much better but also could have been much worse," said AAR senior vice president John T. Gray. "A variety of indicators seem to be saying that the economy is slowly strengthening; a trend we expect to continue in 2014."
AAR also announced mixed December 2013 rail traffic, with U.S. railroads originating 1,078,903 carloads, down 0.9 percent from December 2012. U.S. rail intermodal originations totaled 958,778 containers and trailers in December 2013, up 8 percent over December 2012. During December 2013, eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR saw increases compared with December 2012.
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