Week 29: Rail Traffic Remains Ahead of ’20, Behind ’19

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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For the week ending July 24, 2021, total U.S. rail traffic came in at 503,219 carloads and intermodal units, growing 4.6% from the same week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on July 28.

But rail volumes for week 29 were down 6% compared with the same week in 2019, according to Susquehanna Financial Group (SFG) Analyst Bascome Majors. He also found that the four-week trend was up 7% vs. 2020 and down 3% from 2019.

AAR reported that total U.S. Class I carloads reached 230,095 for the week ending July 24, 2021, up 7.1% compared with the prior-year period; intermodal volume was 273,124 containers and trailers, up 2.6%.

According to an analysis by SFG’s Majors, intermodal for the week was flat with 2019, and the four-week trend for intermodal was up 3% vs. 2019.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase in week 29 compared with the same week in 2020, AAR said. They included coal, up 8,411 carloads, to 65,945; metallic ores and metals, up 7,662 carloads, to 23,124; and nonmetallic minerals, up 2,162 carloads, to 33,115. Commodity groups that posted decreases vs. the same point last year were motor vehicles and parts, down 4,390 carloads, to 10,765; farm products excluding grain, and food, down 1,722 carloads, to 14,679; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 309 carloads, to 10,530.

For the first 29 weeks of this year, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 6,678,220 carloads, rising 9.2% from the prior-year period; and 8,124,671 intermodal units, increasing 15.8%. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 29 weeks of 2021 was 14,802,891 carloads and intermodal units, a 12.7% gain from 2020.

North American rail volume for the week ending July 24, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 327,085 carloads, an increase of 6.7% vs. the comparable week in 2020, and 360,431 intermodal units, a gain of 2.7% vs. last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 687,516 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.6%. North American rail volume for the first 29 weeks of 2021 was 20,180,555 carloads and intermodal units, increasing 11.2% compared with last year.

Canadian railroads reported 75,240 carloads for the week, a rise of 3.3%, and 71,170 intermodal units, an increase of 0.8% vs. the same point in 2020. For the first 29 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,318,114 carloads, containers and trailers, growing 7.4%.

Mexican railroads reported 21,750 carloads for the week, up 15.7% vs. the prior-year period, and 16,137 intermodal units, up 14.4%. Their cumulative volume for the first 29 weeks of 2021 was 1,059,550 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, a 6.4% boost vs. 2020.

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