On the day marking the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act being signed into law, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) was able to report, for the first time in recent memory, that U.S. rail traffic registered a weekly gain, as intermodal growth offset a carload decline by a wide margin.
The AAR reported on Oct. 14, 2020—40 years to the day that President Jimmy Carter signed Staggers into Law— that for the week ending Oct. 10, 2020, total U.S. rail traffic was 520,452 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.9% compared with the same week last year. Total carloads were 230,964, down 5.2% compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 289,488 containers and trailers, up 8.4% compared to 2019.
Six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. They included grain, up 6,531 carloads, to 27,434; motor vehicles and parts, up 810 carloads, to 16,103; and miscellaneous carloads, up 655 carloads, to 10,030. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 11,610 carloads, to 62,229; nonmetallic minerals, down 5,053 carloads, to 30,479; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 2,438 carloads, to 10,259.
For the first 41 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 8,798,767 carloads, down 15% from the same point last year; and 10,323,848 intermodal units, down 5.5% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 41 weeks of 2020 was 19,122,615 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 10.1% compared to last year.
North American rail volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 329,614 carloads, down 3.5% compared with the same week last year, and 384,502 intermodal units, up 6.9% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 714,116 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.8%. North American rail volume for the first 41 weeks of 2020 was 26,320,732 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.5% compared with 2019.
Canadian railroads reported 79,435 carloads for the week, up 1.2%, and 79,211 intermodal units, up 8.5% compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 41 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,790,801 carloads, containers and trailers, down 7%.
Mexican railroads reported 19,215 carloads for the week, down 1.1% compared with the same week last year, and 15,803 intermodal units, down 20.2%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 41 weeks of 2020 was 1,407,316 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 10.7% from the same point last year.