Auto industry's comeback has been good news for rail

The automotive industry's comeback since the recession has benefited the railroads' business of moving finished cars, light trucks and auto parts for their customers. Last year, a record 17.5 million new cars and light trucks were sold in 2016 — and you can bet the railroads got a piece of that business growth.

Automotive is expected to remain a good traffic segment for railroads this year, although it may level off in some areas depending on railroads' locations and the automotive plants they serve.

Some of that leveling off has been reflected in the Association of American Railroads' weekly traffic data reports. Through the first 15 weeks of 2017, all North American railroads reporting to AAR logged 407,051 carloads of motor vehicles and parts, down 3.5 percent compared with volumes during the same period in 2016.

Last month, I spent time talking to Class Is and listening to their first-quarter earnings calls to get a sense of the trend in railroads' automotive traffic. The impact of potential changes in NAFTA or other trade policies under the Trump administration also came up in those conversations.

To find out what's on railroad executives' minds when it comes to automotive trends, check out my article by clicking on this link.

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