An intermodal gain approaching a whopping 20% coupled to a modest decrease in carload traffic, compared to 2020, drove a rail freight traffic increase of nearly 10% for Week 3 of 2021, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Jan. 27.
Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Jan. 23 rose 9% to 529,030 carloads and intermodal units vs. the same week last year, the AAR reported. While intermodal gains—up 17.8% to 298,051 units—accounted for the lift, carloads dropped just 0.7% to 230,979, compared with the 2020 period.
Of the 10 carload commodity groups, five posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included grain, up 5,481 carloads, to 27,295; chemicals, up 846 carloads, to 32,140; and forest products, up 603 carloads, to 10,192. Commodity groups that experienced decreases vs. the comparable 2020 week included coal, down 4,949 carloads, to 63,474; nonmetallic minerals, down 2,672 carloads, to 25,233; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 1,139 carloads, to 12,522.
For the first three weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 698,933 carloads, declining 1.4% from the same point last year; and 883,897 intermodal units, increasing 13.6 % from 2020. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first three weeks of the year was 1,582,830 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 6.5% vs. last year.
North American rail volume for the week ending Jan. 23, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 334,360 carloads, rising 0.4% compared with the same week last year, and 389,102 intermodal units, increasing 14.4% vs. last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic was 723,462 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.4%. Rail volume for the first three weeks of 2021 was 2,159,271 carloads and intermodal units, a 6.3% boost over 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 82,307 carloads for the week, a 1.6% increase, and 73,769 intermodal units, a 7.2% increase compared with the same week in 2020. For the first three weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 468,093 carloads, containers and trailers, rising 8.8%.
Mexican railroads reported 21,074 carloads for the week, up 7.4% vs. the same week last year, and 17,282 intermodal units, down 5.9%. Cumulative volume for the first three weeks of the year was 108,348 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, falling 4.8% from the same point last year.