Welcome to RailResource.com
If it's on the minds of railroad professionals, it's on RailResource.com

Archive for the ‘Featured Stories’ Category

AAR Reports Decreased August Rail Traffic

September 7th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for August 2016 was 2,675,263 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.7 percent or 162,230 carloads and intermodal units compared with August 2015.

August 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,347,989, a drop of 6.6 percent, or 95,341 carloads, compared to August of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 1 percent or 8,703 carloads compared to August 2015.

Intermodal traffic for August totaled 1,327,274 containers and trailers, down 66,889 units, or 4.8 percent, compared to last August.

Eight of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with August of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included waste and nonferrous scrap, up 25.4 percent, or 4,182 carloads; grain, up 24.7 percent, or 23,857 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.1 percent, or 1,699 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 25.1 percent, or 17,650 carloads, and coal declined 16.1 percent, or 86,638 carloads. Crushed stone, gravel and sand were down 6.9 percent, or 8,913 carloads.

“While August showed improvements in some categories, the big story in terms of rail traffic last month was the continuing surge in carloads of grain,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Railroads, along with barges and trucks, are a critical part of the grain logistical chain. The fact that this chain generally functions smoothly is a testament to the tremendous efforts that transportation providers, including railroads, put forth in support of their grain-related customers.”

For the week ending September 3, 2016, a decrease of 5 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 538,826.

For the week, there were 273,117 carloads, a drop of 4.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 265,709 containers and trailers, down 5 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Grain had the highest increase, up 30.2 percent, with a total 24,455 carloads; followed by miscellaneous carloads, up 24.1 percent, with a total of 11,425 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 5.5 percent to 19,557 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 10,770 carloads, a drop of 24.4 percent. Coal was down by 16.2 percent to 90,575 carloads, and forest products decreased by 6.8 percent to 10,631 carloads.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending September 3, 2016, was 703,721 carloads and intermodal units, down 4 percent.

For the first eight months of 2016, total U.S. rail traffic was down 7.2 percent, or 1,369,877 carloads and intermodal units, from the same time period in 2015. U.S. carloads totaled 8,668,572, a drop of 11.1 percent or 1,081,450 carloads. Intermodal containers and trailers totaled 9,042,678 units, down 3.1 percent, or 288,427 units, compared to the same period in 2015.

North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2016 totaled 23,157,141 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.9 percent compared with 2015.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

USDOT Announces Grants for PTC Implementation on Commuter Railroads

August 2nd, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is accepting applications for $199 million in competitive grant funding for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation on commuter railroads for Fiscal Year 2017. The grants will be selected by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and awarded and administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “With more passengers depending on rail for transportation, Positive Train Control is needed more than ever. I encourage all commuter railroads to take full advantage of this opportunity to invest in the most important rail safety technology in more than a century.”

FRA will accept applications until 5 p.m. EDT on Sept. 28, 2016, from eligible applicants, including any entity that is eligible to receive grants from the FTA, such as commuter railroads, operators, and state and local governments.

Projects eligible for grants must develop information that assists in implementing PTC systems, such as costs of installing PTC systems; back office systems; PTC interoperability; technologies that will lower costs, accelerate implementation, enhance interoperability between host and tenant operations, and improve reliability of PTC systems; and support PTC system certification.

“This funding will get us a bit closer to activating Positive Train Control on some of the most important railroads in the country that transport millions of passengers to their jobs each morning and to their families each night,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “We urge railroads to submit strong applications that make these dollars go as far as possible, and we remain hopeful that Congress will act on the President’s request for more funding to make PTC a reality as quickly as possible.”

In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation (PIH), or toxic-by-inhalation (TIH), hazardous materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. Congress has extended the original deadline from December 31, 2015, to at least December 31, 2018.

PTC technology can prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

AAR Reports Decline in June Rail Traffic

July 6th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for June 2016 was 2,540,265 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.3 percent or 170,607 carloads and intermodal units compared with June 2015.

June 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,245,025, a drop of 7 percent, or 93,687 carloads, compared to June of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 2.3 percent or 20,493 carloads compared to June 2015.

Intermodal traffic for June totaled 1,295,240 containers and trailers, down 76,920 units, or 5.6 percent, compared to last June.

Six of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with June of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 17 percent, or 4,569 carloads; waste and nonferrous scrap, up 16.4 percent, or 2,907 carloads; and grain, up 13.8 percent, or 12,982 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 22.2 percent, or 15,415 carloads, and coal declined 16.4 percent, or 73,194 carloads. Crushed stone, gravel and sand were down 6.6 percent, or 7,727 carloads.

“Rail traffic remains relatively weak, with slightly better coal volumes in June offset by continued weakness in intermodal caused in part by an inventory overhang and global economic uncertainty,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Because current economic indicators are presenting a mixed picture, it’s not clear if railroads should be pessimistic or cautiously optimistic about the near- to medium term.”

For the week ending July 2, 2016, an increase of 4.4 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 529,191.

For the week, there were 264,015 carloads, up 4.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 265,176 containers and trailers, up 4 percent compared to 2015.

The AAR has noted that the July 4 holiday is not included in week 26 data for 2016, but is included in week 26 data of 2015. The AAR is pointing out that, therefore, week 26 data for 2016 is somewhat overstated compared to week 26 of 2015.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads had the highest increase, up 30.9 percent, with a total 10,824 carloads; followed by motor vehicles and parts, up 29 percent, with a total of 18,742 carloads; and grain, up 26.4 percent to 23,248 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 11,186 carloads, a drop of 18.2 percent. Coal was down by 4.8 percent to 79,354 carloads, and forest products decreased by 0.3 percent to 11,019 carloads.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending July 2, 2016, was 684,087 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.7 percent.

For the first 26 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 13,008,219 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.4 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 6,295,216, were down by 12.3 percent, and intermodal volume, with a total of 6,713,003, was down by 2.1 percent.

For the first 26 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.1 percent, with a total of 17,033,080 crloads and intermodal units.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

U.S. Rail Traffic Declines in May

June 3rd, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for May 2016 was 2,012,202 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.8 percent or 147,043 carloads and intermodal units compared with May 2015.

May 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 962,571, a drop of 10.3 percent, or 110,678 carloads, compared to May of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 29.6 percent or 259,735 carloads compared to May 2015.

Intermodal traffic for May totaled 1,049,631 containers and trailers, down 36,365 units, or 3.3 percent, compared to last May.

Ten of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with May of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 30.8 percent, or 5,854 carloads; crushed stone, gravel and sand, up 5.3 percent, or 4,670 carloads; and chemicals, up 3.8 percent, or 4,514 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 29.6 percent, or 109,276 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products declined 20.3 percent, or 11,988 carloads. Metallic ores were down 12.9 percent, or 3,701 carloads.

“Most economists think the economy has picked up in the second quarter from the dismal 0.8 percent growth in the first quarter, but so far railroads aren’t seeing much of it,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “A variety of environmental and market forces continue to punish coal, and high business inventory levels and excess truck capacity, among other things, are pressuring rail intermodal volumes. Railroads are focusing on what they can control — providing safe, reliable service — while looking forward to the forces they can’t control turning their way.”

For the week ending May 28, 2016, an increase of 1.9 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 513,917.

For the week, there were 246,881 carloads, down 4.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 267,036 containers and trailers, up 8 percent compared to 2015.

The AAR has noted that traffic for the week this year does not include Memorial Day while the comparable week last year does include Memorial Day. The AAR is pointing out that this week’s numbers are not a true reflection of rail traffic when compared to 2015.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads had the highest increase, up 57 percent, with a total 11,119 carloads; followed by motor vehicles and parts, up 10.2 percent, with a total of 18,897 carloads; and nonmetallic minerals, up 9.3 percent to 35,410 carloads.

Coal reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 65,832 carloads, a drop of 25 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products were down by 13.9 percent to 12,258 carloads, and forest products decreased by 6.9 percent to 10,104 carloads.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending May 28, 2016, was 664,994 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.1 percent.

For the first 21 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 10,467,954 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.6 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 5,050,191, were down by 13.6 percent, and intermodal volume, with a total of 5,417,763, was down by 1.3 percent.

For the first 21 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.3 percent, with a total of 13,720,573 carloads and intermodal units.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

AAR Reports Decline in April Rail Traffic

May 6th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for April 2016 was 1,972,829 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.8 percent or 264,327 carloads and intermodal units compared with April 2015.

April 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 944,339, a drop of 16.1 percent, or 180,598 carloads, compared to April of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 2.8 percent or 19,974 carloads compared to April 2015.

Intermodal traffic for April totaled 1,028,460 containers and trailers, down 83,729 units, or 7.5 percent, compared to last April.

Five of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with April of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 25 percent, or 4,743 carloads; coke, up 16.1 percent, or 2,354 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.5 percent, or 1,909 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 39.7 percent, or 160,624 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products declined by 25.1 percent, or 15,122 carloads. Grain mill products were down 7.1 percent, or 2,760 carloads.

“Rail coal traffic continues to suffer due to low natural gas prices and high coal stockpiles at power plants,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Coal accounted for just 26 percent of non-intermodal rail traffic for U.S. railroads in April 2016, down from 36 percent in April 2015 and 45 percent as recently as late 2011. We expect non-coal carloads to strengthen when the economy gets stronger, and we think intermodal weakness in April is probably at least partly a function of high business inventories that need to be drawn down before new orders, and thus new shipments, are made.”

For the week ending April 30, 2016, a decrease of 11.3 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 502,045.

For the week, there were 243,604 carloads, down 14.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 258,441 containers and trailers, down 8.6 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads had the highest increase, up 12.7 percent, with a total 10,204 carloads; followed by grain, up 8.7 percent, with a total of 20,038 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 3.1 percent to 18,965 carloads.

Coal reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 64,145 carloads, a drop of 37 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products were down by 25.5 percent to 11,053 carloads, and forest products decreased by 13.1 percent to 10,025 carloads.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

AAR Reports Decreased Weekly Rail Traffic

April 28th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending April 23, 2016, totaled 491,946 carloads and intermodal units, an 11.7 percent decrease compared to the same week in 2015.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 230,599 for the week, were down by 17.1 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 261,347 units, a decrease of 6.3 percent compared to 2015.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending April 23, 2016, when compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads increased 23.3 percent to 9,515 carloads, chemicals were up 1.6 percent to 30,858 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts were up by 1.3 percent to 19,138 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 40.1 percent to 58,837 carloads. Petroleum and petroleum products declined by 24.9 percent to 11,348 carloads, and grain dropped 7.9 percent to 18,340 carloads.

For the first 16 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 7,953,707 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.6 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 3,844,016, were down by 14.3 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 4,109,691, dropped by 0.2 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending April 23, 2016, was 648,515 carloads and intermodal units, down 11 percent.

For the first 16 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.1 percent, with a total of 10,433,247 carloads and intermodal units.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

NS Reducing Operations at Knoxville Rail Yard

April 25th, 2016

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS) has announced that it will reduce train operations at its Knoxville, Tenn., rail yard, effective May 1, in response to lower traffic volumes and the company’s five-year strategic plan to implement cost control initiatives and network improvements. The plan includes enhancing operating efficiencies, reducing costs, driving profitability, and supporting long-term growth.

NS will idle switching operations at the rail yard, where freight cars from inbound trains are sorted by destination and assembled into outbound trains. This will decrease train traffic, reducing the need for personnel and infrastructure for train operations and maintenance activities. The Knoxville terminal will still serve as a hub for through-train operations and NS has developed an operating plan to minimize any customer impact.

Knoxville will continue to serve as headquarters for the company’s Central Division, which includes 1,100 track miles primarily in Tennessee and Kentucky. The company currently employs more than 1,570 people across Tennessee with nearly 850 miles of track across the state, intermodal terminals in Memphis, and a major rail classification yard and locomotive shop in Chattanooga.

NS remains on track to achieve its previously announced annual expense savings of more than $650 million and an operating ratio below 65 percent by 2020.

Posted in Featured Stories, More News | Comments Off

FRA Announces $25 Million in Funding for PTC Implementation

April 6th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is accepting applications for $25 million in competitive grant funding for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation. The funding, available to railroads, suppliers, and state and local governments, is part of the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act that funds the USDOT.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “Positive train control is a long overdue technology that prevents accidents and saves lives. These funds will help us get closer to implementing PTC, and I encourage applications that can make these limited dollars go as far as possible.”

Applications will be accepted until May 19, 2016, with preference given to projects providing the greatest level of public safety benefits.

“Any Congressional funding and investment to make Positive Train Control active on our nation’s railroad network is a worthwhile investment,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “But it will take even more significant funding to achieve this important, life-saving goal. We look forward to working with Congress to find these resources and encourage railroads to submit strong applications.”

In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous (PIH) or toxic-by-inhalation hazardous (TIH) materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. The original deadline of December 31, 2015 was extended to at least December 31, 2018 by Congress last year.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

STB Seeks Comments on Revocation of Commodity Exemptions

March 28th, 2016

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is seeking public comment on its proposal to revoke existing class exemptions from railroad-transportation regulations for certain commodities. The decision comes as the Board is examining its current regulations in light of the many changes in the rail industry over recent decades.

The Board specifically seeks comments on revoking exemptions concerning crushed or broken stone or rip rap (a type of loose stone used to maintain surface stability); hydraulic cement; coke produced from coal, primary iron or steel products, and iron or steel scrap, wastes, or tailings. The Board seeks additional information about these markets and comments addressing whether regulatory oversight is warranted.

The Board is also inviting interested parties to file comments regarding the possible revocation of other commodity class exemptions, and such comments are requested to address any marketplace changes comparable to the ones addressed in the Board’s decision

“Today’s decision is an important step towards improving shippers’ access to the Board’s processes and addressing whether the Board’s regulatory approaches need modification in light of current market conditions,” said STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott. “These are important issues and I look forward to the public comments addressing the proposed exemption revocations. My central goal is for all stakeholders to have an appropriate, meaningful path to the Board.”

For further information on the STB’s proposal, visit the STB website.

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off

FTA Publishes Final Rule on State Safety Oversight of Rail Transit Systems

March 16th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced a final rule, strengthening state safety oversight and enforcement to prevent accidents and incidents on rail transit systems. The final rule, which will be published in the Federal Register on March 16, will take effect 30 days after publication.

“With the more rigorous and effective state safety oversight required by this final rule and federal law, transit systems across the nation will receive greater safety oversight with the aim of improving safety for passengers and transit system employees,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“Greater investigatory and enforcement power combined with better training will give state safety oversight watchdogs sharper teeth to help rail transit agencies keep their systems safe,” Foxx added.

States where a rail transit system operates must carry out several federal statutory requirements, including submitting its State Safety Oversight (SSO) program to FTA for certification. The designated SSO Agency must have financial and legal independence from the rail transit agencies it oversees, and SSO Agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities must have proper training and certification.

The final rule also requires that a State’s SSO Agency adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has investigatory authority, and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within its jurisdiction.

States with an operating rail transit system must have an SSO program certified within three years of the effective date of the final rule. California and Massachusetts are already certified by the FTA, with most of the 28 remaining states already taking some actions toward compliance. Congress has authorized a source of funds to the states for their use in meeting these new safety oversight obligations.

The existing Federal SSO program regulations will remain in effect during the transition period and then be rescinded.

If a state is non-compliant after the three-year period, FTA may withhold federal funds until its SSO program is certified. If a state fails to establish an SSO program, FTA is prohibited by law from obligating any federal financial assistance to any entity in that state otherwise eligible to receive FTA program funding.

“FTA has delivered exactly what Congress authorized: a stronger, more robust state safety oversight program with increased enforcement tools,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “States should act swiftly to come into compliance to provide a higher level of safety for their rail transit system riders and workers.”

Posted in Featured Stories | Comments Off