Grain, Coal Shipments Outpacing Crude Oil for U.S. Freight Railroads

"America's railroads are moving more traffic since the recession. Business production and consumer demand are increasing, and rail is playing a bigger part in getting American goods to market," the Association of American Railroads' president and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger, said Nov. 20.

Despite the attention paid by Canadian and U.S. safety authorities to crude oil shipments by rail following the July 2013 disaster involving a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway freight train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, crude oil shipments by rail ranked only fifth among categories where U.S. freight railroads' carloads increased in the first half of 2014 from the same period a year before. Crude oil carloads increased by 24,058 year over year, but coal carloads increased much faster – by 84,118 carloads, the Association of American Railroads has reported.

Intermodal/mixed shipments (up by 182,425 carloads) and grain (up by 118,500) topped the list. The railroads moved 24,735 more carloads of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts year over year and 20,949 more carloads of chemicals.

The Association of American Railroads' president and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger, gave a speech Nov. 20 in which he said a robust freight rail network is needed to meet the country's transforming business challenges head on. "A healthy and efficient freight rail network is vital to delivering America's changing economy," he said. "America's railroads are moving more traffic since the recession. Business production and consumer demand are increasing, and rail is playing a bigger part in getting American goods to market."

Hamberger was speaking at the annual RailTrends Conference in New York City. He said the industry has gone from comparatively light to heavy traffic in a short period of time, something even many shippers did not forecast, and is meeting the demand to transport a mix of more commodities. "Railroads cannot simply pick up track and move it from one location to another due to shifting shipping patterns. It takes time and careful network planning," he said. "To accommodate the shipping needs of customers, the rail industry has to be flexible, efficient, and responsive. This includes railroads spending about $1 billion every two weeks on operational enhancements and hiring thousands of Americans for new jobs."

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