Week 49: Another Hit for Intermodal

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Wikipedia photo)

(Wikipedia photo)

U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 11, 2021 continued to suffer, as a near-11% fall-off in intermodal volume erased a small increase in carloads, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Dec. 15.

U.S. Class I railroads in week 49 hauled 513,366 carloads and intermodal units, a 6% dip from the same point last year. Total carloads came in at 239,029, up 0.3% from 2000, and containers and trailers were 274,337, down 10.9% from last year.

This is the 19th consecutive week of intermodal losses tamping down carload gains. (For more, see “U.S. Intermodal Slump Continued in Week 48”“AAR: U.S. Carload Traffic Up 7% in 2021” ;“U.S. Intermodal: Drop-Off Spans 16 Consecutive Weeks.”; and “Mediocre Performance—While Expecting Superior Results?”)

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

According to AAR, for the week ending Dec. 11, 2021, five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week last year. They included nonmetallic minerals, up 2,982 carloads, to 31,052; coal, up 2,979 carloads, to 66,762; and chemicals, up 2,706 carloads, to 35,297. Commodity groups that posted declines vs. 2020 included motor vehicles and parts, down 3,660 carloads, to 13,953; grain, down 3,508 carloads, to 24,876; and miscellaneous carloads, down 516 carloads, to 9,459.

For the first 49 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,368,512 carloads, a 6.8% bump-up from the year-earlier period; and 13,464,361 intermodal units, a 5.6% rise over 2020. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 49 weeks of this year was 24,832,873 carloads and intermodal units, increasing 6.1% from 2020.

North American rail volume for the week ending Dec. 11, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 331,925 carloads, dipping 3.7% vs. the same week last year, and 354,599 intermodal units, decreasing 10.8%. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 686,524 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.5%. North American rail volume for the first 49 weeks of this year was 33,799,003 carloads and intermodal units, a 5% boost compared with 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 71,880 carloads for the week, a 17% drop, and 64,609 intermodal units, a 14.3% decline compared with the year-ago period. For the first 49 weeks of 2021, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 7,181,020 carloads, containers and trailers, a 1.2% lift.

Mexican railroads reported 21,016 carloads for the week, increasing 6.6% from the same point in 2020, and 15,653 intermodal units, gaining 9.9%. Their cumulative volume for the first 49 weeks of this year was 1,785,110 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 4.3% from 2020.

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