In reporting U.S. rail traffic for the week ending August 29, 2020, as well as volumes for August 2020, Association of American Railroads Senior Vice President Policy and Economics John T. Gray emphasized the importance that railroads have in moving consumer goods, as indicated by the ongoing recovery in intermodal loadings. “Despite the pandemic and the associated economic dislocations, an enormous amount of freight continues to move on railroads and other transportation modes,” said Gray. “For U.S. railroads, August 2020 was the best month in terms of intermodal loadings since October 2018 and the fifth best intermodal month ever. Much of what’s inside the trailers and containers on an intermodal train ends up on the shelves of stores, or finds its way to consumers’ doors via e-commerce merchants. Railroads help ensure that consumers get what they want, when they want it.”
U.S. railroads originated 898,227 carloads in August 2020, down 14.9%, or 156,797 carloads, from August 2019. U.S. railroads also originated 1,122,954 containers and trailers in August 2020, up 3%, or 33,115 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in August 2020 were 2,021,181, down 5.8%, or 123,682 carloads and intermodal units from August 2019.
In August 2020, two of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with August 2019. These were grain, up 4,683 carloads or 5.6%; and farm products excl. grain, up 168 carloads or 5%. Commodities that saw declines in August 2020 from August 2019 were coal, down 85,216 carloads or 25.8%; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 24,961 carloads or 25%; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 7,128 carloads or 14.3%.
Excluding coal, carloads were down 71,581 carloads, or 9.9%, in August 2020 from August 2019. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 76,264 carloads, or 11.9%.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first eight months of 2020 was 7,448,257 carloads, down 16%, or 1,423,522 carloads, from the same period last year; and 8,610,477 intermodal units, down 7.7%, or 717,985 containers and trailers, from last year.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 35 weeks of 2020 was 16,058,734 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 11.8% compared to last year.
Week Ending Aug. 29, 2020
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 508,307 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.2% compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending August 29 were 225,703 carloads, down 15.9% compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 282,604 containers and trailers, up 3.4% compared to 2019.
None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 23,701 carloads, to 62,919; nonmetallic minerals, down 6,457 carloads, to 29,841; and metallic ores and metals, down 3,890 carloads, to 19,676.
North American rail volume for the week ending August 29, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 318,124 carloads, down 15.3% compared with the same week last year, and 372,734 intermodal units, up 1.6% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 690,858 carloads and intermodal units, down 7%. North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2020 was 22,111,806 carloads and intermodal units, down 11% compared with 2019.
Canadian railroads reported 72,859 carloads for the week, down 15.3%, and 73,551 intermodal units, down 0.8% compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 35 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,859,595 carloads, containers and trailers, down 8.6%.
Mexican railroads reported 19,562 carloads for the week, down 8.1% compared with the same week last year, and 16,579 intermodal units, down 15.1%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 35 weeks of 2020 was 1,193,477 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 10.7% from the same point last year.