The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ended June 27, 2020, as well as volumes for June 2020. And it appears the light at the end of the tunnel is perhaps getting close.
“June was a month in which the slow recovery process that began in early May, began to accelerate,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “By the end of June, freight loadings had improved by about 60,000 carload and intermodal units weekly over where they had been in late April.”
U.S. railroads originated 794,256 carloads in June 2020, down 22.4%, or 228,975 carloads, from June 2019. U.S. railroads also originated 1,004,933 containers and trailers in June 2020, down 6.6%, or 70,994 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in June 2020 were 1,799,189, down 14.3%, or 299,969 carloads and intermodal units from June 2019.
In June 2020, two of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with June 2019. These were all other carloads, up 585 carloads or 2.4%; and farm products excl. grain, up 326 carloads or 11.1%. Commodities that saw declines in June 2020 from June 2019 were commodities such as coal, down 104,576 carloads or 34.1%; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 26,659 carloads or 27.1%; and motor vehicles & parts, down 20,500 carloads or 30.3%.
“After recording record lows in early May, coal finally stabilized at about 50,000 carloads per week by the end of June,” Gray said. “Additionally, the reopening of automotive plants that began in early June has regrown that business from as little as 2,000 weekly loads to over 13,000 by the end of the month. This also contributed to stabilization for loadings of products that support auto production such as metals, glass and plastics. However, leading the way upward was the intermodal business, which, over the last two months, grew to match volumes last seen around the first of February. While all of these results are encouraging they will be much more robust if the current trend continues in the weeks following the July 4th holiday.”
Excluding coal, carloads were down 124,399 carloads, or 17.4%, in June 2020 from June 2019. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 120,284 carloads, or 19.1%.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first six months of 2020 was 5,508,013 carloads, down 15.9%, or 1,044,388 carloads, from the same period last year; and 6,191,563 intermodal units, down 10.6%, or 732,697 containers and trailers, from last year.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 26 weeks of 2020 was 11,699,576 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 13.2% compared to last year.
Week Ended June 27, 2020
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 459,449 carloads and intermodal units, down 13.8% compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending June 27 were 201,502 carloads, down 22.9% compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 257,947 containers and trailers, down 5.1% compared to 2019.
None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included commodities such as coal, down 27,574 carloads, to 50,961; metallic ores and metals, down 8,813 carloads, to 15,077; and nonmetallic minerals, down 8,372 carloads, to 29,393.
North American rail volume for the week ended June 27, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 291,951 carloads, down 21.8% compared with the same week last year, and 337,042 intermodal units, down 6.6% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 628,993 carloads and intermodal units, down 14.3%. North American rail volume for the first 26 weeks of 2020 was 16,174,394 carloads and intermodal units, down 12% compared with 2019.
Canadian railroads reported 71,613 carloads for the week, down 20.1%, and 64,364 intermodal units, down 8.8% compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 26 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,601,257 carloads, containers and trailers, down 8.3%.
Mexican railroads reported 18,836 carloads for the week, down 15.8% compared with the same week last year, and 14,731 intermodal units, down 20.6%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 26 weeks of 2020 was 873,561 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 10.6% from the same point last year.