Rail Traffic Volumes Hold Steady Through Week 20: AARWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
For the week ending May 22, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic was 528,774 carloads and intermodal units, similar to the previous four weeks and up 23.4% from the same point in 2020, according to an Association of American Railroads’ May 26 report.
Total carloads for the week reached 242,227, a 27.2% increase compared with the prior-year period, while intermodal volume was 286,547 containers and trailers, a 20.4% rise vs. 2020.
The previous week (ending May 15) had total U.S. rail traffic of 533,872 (up 28.3% from the same week last year), including 242,806 carloads (up 31.6% from 2020) and 291,066 intermodal containers and trailers (up 25.6% from 2020).
These results are similar to the three prior weeks:
• For the week ending May 8, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic came in at 523,309 (a 26.9% increase over the prior-year period), including 236,019 carloads (up 27.6%) and 287,290 intermodal units (up 26.3%).
• For the week ending May 1, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic was 540,667 (climbing 29.6% from the same point in 2020), with 240,858 carloads (up 27.2%) and 299,809 containers and trailers (up 31.6%).
• For the week ending April 24, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic came in at 538,184 (rising 30% over the same 2020 period), with 240,075 carloads (up 25%) and 298,109 intermodal units (up 34.3%).
AAR noted in its May 26 report that “[f]or some rail traffic categories, percentage changes for the current week compared with the same week in 2020 are inflated because of the widespread shutdowns—and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes—that impacted many economic sectors last year at this time.” The association first included this statement in its March 24, 2021 report, when it provided data on week 11 (ending March 20), which marked one year of pandemic-related traffic disruption.
All 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included coal, up 17,877 carloads, to 64,641; motor vehicles and parts, up 8,887 carloads, to 13,763; and metallic ores and metals, up 8,697 carloads, to 23,516.
For the first 20 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,583,989 carloads, a boost of 6.2% from the same point last year; and 5,658,401 intermodal units, a rise of 18.6% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 20 weeks of 2021 was 10,242,390 carloads and intermodal units, a 12.7% jump from 2020.
North American rail volume for the week ending May 22, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 340,793 carloads, up 24.6% compared with the same week last year, and 378,724 intermodal units, up 20.4% vs. last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 719,517 carloads and intermodal units, up 22.4%. North American rail volume for the first 20 weeks of 2021 was 14,010,375 carloads and intermodal units, increasing 11.4% from 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 76,170 carloads for the week, a 16% rise, and 75,644 intermodal units, a 22.4% jump vs. the same week last year. For the first 20 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,035,544 carloads, containers and trailers, up 8.5%.
Mexican railroads reported 22,396 carloads for the week, climbing 28.8% compared with the same week last year, and 16,533 intermodal units, increasing 13.1%. Their cumulative volume for the first 20 weeks of 2021 was 732,441 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6.6% from the same point in 2020.