Rail Traffic Uptick for Week 33

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Photograph Courtesy of Norfolk Southern)

(Photograph Courtesy of Norfolk Southern)

For the week ending Aug. 20, 2022, U.S. rail traffic was up 0.1% over the same week last year; total carloads came in 2.9% higher while intermodal volume continued its downward trend, dipping 2.4%, according to the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) Aug. 24 report.

In Week 33 (ending Aug. 20, 2022), U.S. Class I railroads hauled a total of 501,548 carloads and intermodal units, comprising 237,404 carloads and 264,144 containers and trailers. This is the second time in four weeks that a gain in total rail traffic has been reported. Prior to the week ending July 30, 2022, there had been 22 consecutive weeks of total traffic declines.

(Photograph Courtesy of Union Pacific)

Underscoring the results, Union Pacific (UP) Executive Vice President-Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker wrote in an Aug. 18 letter to customers that the Class I railroad’s volumes were “up around 2% for the quarter to date as demand continues to remain strong. While we have seen volume grow in the past four weeks, the total operating inventory on our network has also grown. We’ve pulled almost 3,000 UP-owned cars out of storage and started to add more unit trainsets to support customer demand.

“We are closely monitoring our operating inventory level to make sure it’s climbing at a comparable rate with our carloadings. Most of the volume growth is within our manifest network, and it is important that we avoid excess railcar inventories, especially in our terminals.”

As part of a commitment to improve network performance and increase fluidity, Rocker said UP was focused on the following areas:

  • “Graduated 597 Train, Engine & Yard Service (TEY) employees so far in 2022, on track to meet the 1,400 goal by year-end.
  • “Temporarily relocated more than 200 TEY employees for borrow-out service to support demand.
  • “Maximizing train length and improving crew utilization.
  • “Reassessing the pace we return Union Pacific-owned cars back in service.”

In his online letter, Rocker asked customers “to avoid inserting excess railcars on our network,” because “[b]y eliminating excess railcar inventory along with other resource initiatives, we gain the ability to improve service for all our customers.”

According to AAR, for the week ending Aug. 20, 2022, seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2021. They included coal, up 4,321 carloads, to 68,280; grain, up 2,825 carloads, to 20,974; and farm products excluding grain, and food, up 2,128 carloads, to 17,031. Commodity groups that posted declines were miscellaneous carloads, down 1,951 carloads, to 8,600; metallic ores and metals, down 1,248 carloads, to 22,270; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 627 carloads, to 9,681.

For the first 33 weeks of 2022, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 7,606,648 carloads, down 0.01% from the same point last year; and 8,707,653 intermodal units, down 5.5% from 2021. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 33 weeks of 2022 was 16,314,301 carloads and intermodal units, a 3% drop from last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending Aug. 20, 2022, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 334,389 carloads, rising 2.3% from the prior-year period, and 354,588 intermodal units, decreasing 1.7% compared with 2021. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 688,977 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.2%. North American rail volume for the first 33 weeks of 2022 was 22,296,729 carloads and intermodal units, dropping 2.8% compared with last year.

Canadian railroads reported 75,585 carloads for the week, increasing 1.2%, and 74,484 intermodal units, growing 1% from the year-ago period. For the first 33 weeks of 2022, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,747,008 carloads, containers and trailers, a 3.2% drop.

Mexican railroads reported 21,400 carloads for the week, down 1.1% from the same week in 2021, and 15,960 intermodal units, down 2.5%. Their cumulative volume for the first 33 weeks of 2022 was 1,235,420 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, a 1.1% boost from the same point last year.

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