AAR: North American Rail Volume Up 7.6% Through 40 Weeks

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The Association of American Railroads (AAR) now has 40 weeks of traffic data for 2021. Total traffic (carload and intermodal) rose 7.6% in North America—climbing 8.7% in the U.S., 4.7% in Canada, and 4.1% in Mexico from the same point last year.

For the week ending Oct. 9, 2021, total U.S. weekly rail traffic came in at 506,642 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.6% compared with the same week in 2020, AAR reported on Oct. 13. U.S. Class I railroads moved 239,821 carloads, increasing 4% vs. the prior-year period; and 266,821 containers and trailers, decreasing 7.8% compared with last year.

This is the 10th consecutive week of intermodal losses. For more on the fall-off, see “AAR: No Single Solution to the Intermodal Problem.”

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

According to AAR, six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included coal, up 5,736 carloads, to 67,680; metallic ores and metals, up 4,896 carloads, to 22,369; and nonmetallic minerals, up 2,606 carloads, to 33,087. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with last year included grain, down 3,483 carloads, to 24,037; motor vehicles and parts, down 3,047 carloads, to 13,058; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 837 carloads, to 9,395.

For the first 40 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 9,249,460 carloads, up 7.8% from 2020; and 11,078,929 intermodal units, up 9.4%. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 40 weeks of 2021 was 20,328,389 carloads and intermodal units, a boost of 8.7% from last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending Oct. 9, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads came in at 335,353 carloads, a rise of 1.2% vs. the same week last year, and 355,991 intermodal units, a drop of 7.8% from last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 691,344 carloads and intermodal units, falling 3.6%. North American rail volume for the first 40 weeks of 2021 was 27,705,837 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.6% compared with the same point in 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 76,424 carloads for the week, down 4.2%, and 73,414 intermodal units, down 7.2% vs. the prior-year period. For the first 40 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,932,524 carloads, containers and trailers, increasing 4.7%.

Mexican railroads reported 19,108 carloads for the week, declining 8.8% compared with the same week in 2020, and 15,756 intermodal units, dropping 8.8%. Their cumulative volume for the first 40 weeks of 2021 was 1,444,924 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 4.1% vs. last year.

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