North American Rail Freight Down 10.5% Through 37 Weeks: AAR

The Association of American Railroads now has 37 mostly painful weeks of traffic data. The decline, driven by a sputtering global economy suffering from the impacts of COVID-19, the worst health crisis since the 1918 H1N1 pandemic, saw total traffic (carload and intermodal) fall 10.5% in North America—11.2% in the U.S., 8.1% in Canada (where the coronavirus appears to be under much better control than its neighbor to the south), and 9.6% in Mexico.

Intermodal Spike Drives Traffic Gain

For U.S. railroads, it was the first gain in total traffic in a very long time: For the week ending September 5, 2020, a gain of nearly 25% in U.S. intermodal loadings, compared to the 2019 period, more than offset a decline in carload traffic, creating an overall gain approaching 10%, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Sept. 9. Canadian and Mexican intermodal volumes also rose, driving a North American gain of nearly 21%.

August “Fifth Best Intermodal Month Ever”: AAR

In reporting U.S. rail traffic for the week ending August 29, 2020, as well as volumes for August 2020, Association of American Railroads Senior Vice President Policy and Economics John T. Gray emphasized the importance that railroads have in moving consumer goods, as indicated by the ongoing recovery in intermodal loadings. “Despite the pandemic and the associated economic dislocations, an enormous amount of freight continues to move on railroads and other transportation modes,” said Gray. “For U.S. railroads, August 2020 was the best month in terms of intermodal loadings since October 2018 and the fifth best intermodal month ever. Much of what’s inside the trailers and containers on an intermodal train ends up on the shelves of stores, or finds its way to consumers’ doors via e-commerce merchants. Railroads help ensure that consumers get what they want, when they want it.”