AAR: Rail Traffic Down Slightly in Week 22

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending June 5, 2021 was 489,144 carloads and intermodal units, down approximately 7% from each of the previous four weeks and up 12.9% from the same point in 2020, according to an Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) June 9 report.

Total carloads for the week reached 227,497, rising 18.1% vs. the prior-year period, while intermodal volume was 261,647 containers and trailers, increasing 8.7% from 2020.

For comparison, following are the U.S. weekly rail traffic figures for the past four weeks:
• For the week ending May 29, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic came in at 530,225 carloads and intermodal units (a 34% gain over the prior-year period), including 243,304 carloads (up 35.3% vs. 2020) and 286,921 intermodal units (up 33% vs. 2020).
• For the week ending May 22, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic was 528,774 carloads and intermodal units (up 23.4% from the same point in 2020), with 242,227 carloads (a 27.2% increase) and 286,547 containers and trailers (a 20.4% boost).
• For the week ending May 15, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic was 533,872 (up 28.3% from the same week last year), including 242,806 carloads (up 31.6%) and 291,066 intermodal containers and trailers (up 25.6%).
• For the week ending May 8, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic came in at 523,309 (a 26.9% increase over the comparable 2020 period), with 236,019 carloads (up 27.6%) and 287,290 intermodal units (up 26.3%).

U.S. rail volumes for May 2021 were “encouraging,” AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray reported on June 2. He added that intermodal had the “best January to May period ever” and total carloads for May 2021 “were the most for any month since October 2019 on a weekly average basis.”

AARs June 9, 2021 report noted that percentage changes for some rail traffic categories for the current week (ending June 5) are “inflated.” This is due to the widespread pandemic-related “shutdowns—and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes—that impacted many economic sectors last year at this time.” The association first included this statement in its March 24, 2021 report, when it provided data on week 11 (ending March 20), which marked one year of COVID-19-related traffic disruption.

For the week ending June 5, 2021, nine of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included coal, up 16,326 carloads, to 65,101; metallic ores and metals, up 9,915 carloads, to 23,332; and chemicals, up 4,711 carloads, to 32,602. Only nonmetallic minerals posted a decrease vs. the same week in 2020: falling 892 carloads, to 29,220.

For the first 22 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 5,054,790 carloads, rising 7.8% vs. the prior-year period; and 6,206,969 intermodal units, increasing 18.7% from 2020. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 22 weeks of this year was 11,261,759 carloads and intermodal units, a 13.5% boost vs. 2020.

North American rail volume for the week ending June 5, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 324,161 carloads, a rise of 15.4% compared with the same week last year, and 350,015 intermodal units, an increase of 9.4% vs. last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 674,176 carloads and intermodal units, up 12.2%. North American rail volume for the first 22 weeks of this year was 15,389,692 carloads and intermodal units, up 12% compared with the same point in 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 78,167 carloads for the week, increasing 13.6%, and 74,525 intermodal units, rising 16.8% vs. the same week in 2020. For the first 22 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,337,673 carloads, containers and trailers, up 9%.

Mexican railroads reported 18,497 carloads for the week, dropping 5.1% vs. the same week last year, and 13,843 intermodal units, falling 11%. Their cumulative volume for the first 22 weeks of 2021 was 790,260 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.7% from the comparable 2020 period.

Categories: Class I, Freight, Freight Forecasting, Intermodal, News, Short Lines & Regionals, Switching & Terminal Tags: ,