Week 38: Intermodal Drags Down U.S. Rail Traffic Totals, Again

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Pictured: Union Pacific’s Global 4 intermodal ramp in Chicago. “In 2021, the average time a chassis is on the streets before it returns to an intermodal ramp has elongated by 20% versus the same time last year,” says Elise Gosch, UP’s AVP-Marketing & Sales-Premium Intermodal.

Pictured: Union Pacific’s Global 4 intermodal ramp in Chicago. “In 2021, the average time a chassis is on the streets before it returns to an intermodal ramp has elongated by 20% versus the same time last year,” says Elise Gosch, UP’s AVP-Marketing & Sales-Premium Intermodal.

Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Sept. 25, 2021, was 511,713 carloads and intermodal units, a 1.3% decline from the prior-year period, with intermodal losses offsetting carload gains, according to the Association of American Railroads’ Sept. 29 report.

During the 38th week of the year, U.S. Class I railroads hauled 239,069 carloads, increasing 6.6% compared with the same week in 2020, and 272,644 containers and trailers, falling 7.3% from last year.

This is the eighth consecutive week of intermodal losses. For more on the decline, see “U.S. Intermodal: Drop-Off Spans Seven Consecutive Weeks”“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?”

For the week ending Sept. 25, 2021, six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same point in 2020. They included coal, up 11,681 carloads, to 70,002; metallic ores and metals, up 4,418 carloads, to 24,120; and nonmetallic minerals, up 4,103 carloads, to 34,083. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week last year included motor vehicles and parts, down 4,774 carloads, to 11,563; grain, down 3,128 carloads, to 21,864; and farm products excluding grain, and food, down 169 carloads, to 15,503.

For the first 38 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 8,767,729 carloads, an 8% increase from the prior-year period; and 10,538,169 intermodal units, a 10.4% boost over 2020. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 38 weeks of 2021 was 19,305,898 carloads and intermodal units, rising 9.3% from last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending Sept. 25, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads came in at 338,697 carloads, up 4.6% vs. the same week last year, and 358,622 intermodal units, down 7.3% from 2020. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 697,319 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.9%. North American rail volume for the first 38 weeks of 2021 was 26,329,161 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.2% vs. last year.

Canadian railroads reported 79,652 carloads for the week, a 2.5% drop, and 71,153 intermodal units, a 6.7% fall-off from the same week in 2020. For the first 38 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,630,827 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, a 5.3% gain.

Mexican railroads reported 19,976 carloads for the week, increasing 11.1% vs. 2020, and 14,825 intermodal units, decreasing 10.6%. Their cumulative volume for the first 38 weeks of 2021 was 1,392,436 carloads, containers and trailers, a 5.9% boost from the same point last year.

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