U.S. Intermodal: Drop-Off Spans 16 Consecutive Weeks

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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For the week ending Nov. 20, 2021, U.S. Class I railroads hauled 237,244 carloads, up 1.6% from the same point last year, but the 271,065 intermodal containers and trailers they moved fell 10% from 2020, the Association of American Railroads reported on Nov. 24.

This is the 16th consecutive week of intermodal losses. For more on the slow-down, see “Week 45: Intermodal Takes Another Hit”; “AAR: Rails Feeling Supply Chain Challenges ‘Most Keenly’ in Terminals”; and “AAR: No Single Solution to the Intermodal Problem.” (For more intermodal performance results, see “IANA: ‘Volume Loss is Relative.’” and “Mediocre Performance—While Expecting Superior Results?”)

Total rail traffic for the week ending Nov. 20, 2021, came in at 508,309 carloads and intermodal units, falling 4.9% vs. the same week last year, with intermodal, again, dragging it down.

According to AAR, six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included metallic ores and metals, up 1,838 carloads, to 21,524; coal, up 1,780 carloads, to 64,719; and chemicals, up 1,437 carloads, to 34,174. Commodity groups that posted declines compared with last year included miscellaneous carloads, down 1,009 carloads, to 9,064; motor vehicles and parts, down 887 carloads, to 14,690; and grain, down 710 carloads, to 24,494.

For the first 46 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 10,665,348 carloads, rising 7.1% compared with the prior-year period; and 12,695,960 intermodal units, increasing 6.7% vs. 2020. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 46 weeks of 2021 was 23,361,308 carloads and intermodal units, a 6.9% gain over last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending Nov. 20, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 329,398 carloads, dipping 2.3% compared with the same week last year, and 338,380 intermodal units, decreasing 14.2% vs. 2020. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 667,778 carloads and intermodal units, dropping 8.7% from last year. North American rail volume for the first 46 weeks of 2021 came in at 31,833,619 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.8% vs. 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 73,037 carloads for the week, declining 12%, and 52,947 intermodal units, falling 32.7% from the same point in 2020. For the first 46 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,804,271 carloads, containers and trailers, a 2.8% boost.

Mexican railroads reported 19,117 carloads for the week, down 7.2% from the prior-year period, and 14,368 intermodal units, down 0.6%. The cumulative volume for the first 46 weeks of 2021 came in at 1,668,040 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, gaining 3.8% compared with the same week in 2020.

Categories: Class I, Freight, Freight Forecasting, Intermodal, News, Short Lines & Regionals, Switching & Terminal Tags: , ,