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

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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For the week ending Sept. 18, 2021, U.S. Class I railroads hauled 234,790 carloads, up 3.5% from the same point last year, but the 270,832 intermodal containers and trailers they moved fell 8.3% from 2020, the Association of American Railroads reported on Sept. 22.

This is the seventh consecutive week of intermodal losses. For more on the slow-down, see “Week 36: Intermodal Fall-Off Continues”; “North American Rail Freight Up 9.2% Through 35 Weeks: AAR” ; “AAR: Railroads Working to Keep Network ‘Fluid’”“Week 33: Carloads, Intermodal Drop”“Week 32: Carloads Up, Intermodal Down”; and “Week 31: Is Intermodal Losing Steam?”

Total rail traffic for the week ending Sept. 18 came in at 505,622 carloads and intermodal units, a decline of 3.1% vs. the same week last year.

Chart courtesy of Susquehanna Financial Group. Sources: AAR, company reports, SFG Research

According to AAR, seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the previous-year period. They included coal, up 7,232 carloads, to 68,820; metallic ores and metals, up 5,203 carloads, to 24,798; and nonmetallic minerals, up 2,054 carloads, to 32,676. Commodity groups that posted decreases from the same week in 2020 were motor vehicles and parts, down 5,896 carloads, to 11,709; grain, down 2,609 carloads, to 19,432; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 388 carloads, to 10,494.

For the first 37 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 8,528,660 carloads, rising 8% from the same point last year; and 10,265,525 intermodal units, increasing 10.9% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 37 weeks of 2021 was 18,794,185 carloads and intermodal units, up 9.6% vs. 2020.

North American rail volume for the week ending Sept. 18, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 331,319 carloads, an increase of 1.3% compared with the same week in 2020, and 359,788 intermodal units, a decrease of 6.2% from last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 691,107 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.8%. North American rail volume for the first 37 weeks of 2021 was 25,631,842 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.5% vs. 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 77,935 carloads for the week, falling 6.8%, and 74,845 intermodal units, gaining 0.8% vs. the same week in 2020. For the first 37 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,480,022 carloads, containers and trailers, up 5.6%.

Mexican railroads reported 18,594 carloads for the week, jumping 10.5% compared with the same point last year, and 14,111 intermodal units, gaining 0.3%. Their cumulative volume for the first 37 weeks of 2021 was 1,357,635 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6% from 2020.

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