Week 32: Carloads Up, Intermodal DownWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Total U.S. rail traffic of 504,810 carloads and intermodal units for the week ending Aug. 14, 2021, kept pace with the same week last year, rising 0.9%, based on carload gains, according to the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) Aug. 18 report.
U.S. Class I railroads moved 235,011 carloads in the 32nd week of the year, up 5.7% from the previous-year period, and 269,799 containers and trailers, down 3% from 2020. (For week-ending Aug. 7, 2021 results, which were similar, see “Week 31: Is Intermodal Losing Steam?”)
For the comparable week in 2019 (ending Aug. 10), total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 533,190 carloads and intermodal units, which was down 4.3% compared with the same week in 2018. Total carloads for the week ending Aug. 10, 2019 came in at 261,194, down 3.9% from 2018, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 271,996 containers and trailers, down 4.6% vs. 2018.
AAR reiterated in its Aug. 18, 2021 report that the percentage changes for some rail traffic categories in the current week (ending Aug. 14, 2021) vs. the same week in 2020 are “inflated because of the widespread shutdowns—and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes—that impacted many economic sectors last year at this time.”
According to the association, five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same point in 2020. They included coal, up 8,196 carloads, to 67,054; metallic ores and metals, up 5,676 carloads, to 24,678; and nonmetallic minerals, up 2,080 carloads, to 32,602. Commodity groups that posted declines from the same week last year included grain, down 2,906 carloads, to 19,488; motor vehicles and parts, down 1,883 carloads, to 13,512; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 526 carloads, to 10,314.
For the first 32 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 7,376,542 carloads, increasing 8.9% vs. the same week in 2020; and 8,943,306 intermodal units, rising 14% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 32 weeks of 2021 was 16,319,848 carloads and intermodal units, an 11.6% gain over 2020.
North American rail volume for the week ending Aug. 14, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 327,070 carloads, a rise of 2.9% vs. the same point in 2020, and 360,049 intermodal units, a fall-off of 1.5% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 687,119 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.6%. North American rail volume for the first 32 weeks of 2021 came in at 22,249,304 carloads and intermodal units, up 10.3% from 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 72,109 carloads for the week, dropping 2.3%, and 75,238 intermodal units, rising 7.8% compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 32 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,751,539 carloads, containers and trailers, up 6.9%.
Mexican railroads reported 19,950 carloads for the week, decreasing 7.7% vs. the same week last year, and 15,012 intermodal units, falling 14.5%. Their cumulative volume for the first 32 weeks of 2021 was 1,177,917 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6.5% from 2020.