AAR: Volumes Up for Third Consecutive Month in November

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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Total year-over-year carload and intermodal volumes for U.S. railroads rose for the third consecutive month in November, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Dec. 6.

“U.S. intermodal volume rose 5.0% in November, its third straight year-over-year gain after 18 straight declines and the biggest year-over-year percentage gain for intermodal in 29 months. Overall, the last week of November had the highest carload plus intermodal volumes in two years,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Much will depend on how the broader economy continues to evolve, but railroads are hopeful November will provide much-needed momentum for the rest of 2023 and into 2024.”

U.S. Class I railroads hauled a total of 2,408,479 carloads and intermodal units in November 2023, up 2.6%, or 60,384 carloads and intermodal units, compared with the same month in 2022, according to AAR’s latest rail traffic report covering November and the week ending Dec. 2, 2023. This comprises 1,128,573 carloads—down 0.0%, or 102 carloads, from the year-earlier period—and 1,279,906 containers and trailers—up 5.0%, or 60,486 units, from last year.

In comparison, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in October were 1,997,322, up 1.0%, or 20,280 carloads and intermodal units from the same point in 2022.

In November 2023, 12 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2022. These included: chemicals, up 8,322 carloads or 5.7%; motor vehicles & parts, up 4,611 carloads or 6.6%; and petroleum & petroleum products, up 4,510 carloads or 10.1%. Commodities that saw declines in November 2023 from November 2022 included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 8,052 carloads or 8.0%; all other carloads, down 6,851 carloads or 25.6%; and grain, down 6,290 carloads or 5.4%.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 1,059 carloads, or 0.1%, in November 2023 from November 2022. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 5,231 carloads, or 0.8%.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2023 was 10,824,994 carloads, up 0.2%, or 21,700 carloads, from the same period last year; and 11,684,971 intermodal units, down 6.0%, or 748,046 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2023 was 22,509,965 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 3.1% compared to last year.

Week Ending Dec. 2, 2023

Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 2, 2023, was 509,626 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.9% from the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week came in at 237,049 carloads, up 1.4% compared with the same week in 2022, and U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 272,577 containers and trailers, increasing 8.2% from 2022.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2022. They included chemicals, up 6,869 carloads, to 33,692; petroleum and petroleum products, up 1,401 carloads, to 10,902; and motor vehicles and parts, up 1,168 carloads, to 16,209. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2022 included nonmetallic minerals, down 3,167 carloads, to 29,043; miscellaneous carloads, down 1,740 carloads, to 7,600; and grain, down 1,276 carloads, to 23,425.

North American rail volume for the week ending Dec. 2, 2023, on 10 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 351,272 carloads, up 2.3% compared with the same week last year, and 356,459 intermodal units, up 6.95 compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 707,731 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.6%. North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2023 was 31,531,507 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.8% compared with 2022.

For the week ending Dec. 2, 2023, Canadian railroads reported 97,615 carloads, up 3.2%, and 71,079 intermodal units, up 0.1% compared with the same week in 2022. For the first 48 weeks of 2023, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 7,669,482 carloads, containers and trailers, down 3.2%.

Mexican railroads reported 16,608 carloads for the week, up 12.7% compared with the same week last year, and 12,803 intermodal units, up 21.2%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 48 weeks of 2023 was 1,352,060 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 4.6% from the same point last year.

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