For the week ending April 17, 2021, U.S. carloads and intermodal volume were up from the prior-year period—25.2% and 38.3% respectively, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on April 21.
This is the fifth consecutive week AAR has reported that percentage changes for some rail traffic categories were “inflated” due to pandemic-related “shutdowns—and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes—that impacted many economic sectors last year at this time.”
For the 15th week of 2021 (ending April 17), U.S. rail traffic came in at 237,607 carloads and 295,610 containers and trailers, totaling 533,217—up 32.2% from the same week last year.
For the week ending April 17, nine of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase vs. the same week in 2020. They included coal, up 13,166 carloads, to 61,600; motor vehicles and parts, up 10,606 carloads, to 12,549; and metallic ores and metals, up 7,533 carloads, to 24,803. One commodity group posted a decrease from the same point last year: petroleum and petroleum products, down 120 carloads, to 10,829.
U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,382,004 carloads for the first 15 weeks of 2021. This is up 0.2% from the comparable 2020 period. They also reported 4,195,580 intermodal units for the first 15 weeks of the year, a 15.7% increase from 2020. Total combined U.S. traffic for the period was 7,577,584 carloads and intermodal units, rising 8.2% compared with last year.
North American rail volume for the week ending April 17, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 341,017 carloads, up 23.2% compared with the same week last year, and 384,527 intermodal units, up 32.5% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 725,544 carloads and intermodal units, increasing 28%. North American rail volume for the first 15 weeks of 2021 was 10,389,949 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.4% vs. 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 82,929 carloads for the week, rising 14.2%, and 71,720 intermodal units, increasing 10.4% compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 15 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,275,481 carloads, containers and trailers, up 7.2%.
Mexican railroads reported 20,481 carloads for the week, up 41.6% vs. the same week last year, and 17,197 intermodal units, up 49.3%. Their cumulative volume for the first 15 weeks of 2021 was 536,884 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 1.6% from the same point last year.