AAR’s John Gray: ‘Railroads are well prepared to support a strong recovery whenever it occurs’

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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AAR’s John Gray: “Railroads are well prepared to support a strong recovery whenever it occurs.”
David C. Lester

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending January 30, 2021, as well as volumes for January 2021.

January 2021

U.S. railroads originated 930,303 carloads in January 2021, down 2.1 percent, or 19,799 carloads, from January 2020. U.S. railroads also originated 1,173,220 containers and trailers in January 2021, up 12.1 percent, or 126,548 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in January 2021 were 2,103,523, up 5.3 percent, or 106,749 carloads and intermodal units from January 2020.

In January 2021, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with January 2020. These included: grain, up 31,434 carloads or 40.0 percent; chemicals, up 5,717 carloads or 4.4 percent; and metallic ores, up 5,190 carloads or 28.7 percent. Commodities that saw declines in January 2021 from January 2020 included: coal, down 35,356 carloads or 12.7 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 14,097 carloads or 18.9 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 6,529 carloads or 12.1 percent.

“We are encouraged by rail volumes in January. U.S. intermodal shipments and carloads of chemicals set new records; grain had its biggest-ever year-over-year increase; total carloads were the highest they’ve been in a year; and carloads excluding coal actually grew year-over-year for the second straight month,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “To be sure, the economy remains under strain with a good deal of uncertainty, but we’re cautiously optimistic about the future. Railroads are well prepared to support a strong recovery whenever it occurs.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 15,557 carloads, or 2.3 percent, in January 2021 from January 2020. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 15,877 carloads, or 2.7 percent.

Week Ending January 30, 2021

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 520,693 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.1 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending January 30 were 231,370 carloads, down 4.1 percent compared with the same week in 2020, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 289,323 containers and trailers, up 7.6 percent compared to 2020.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They were grain, up 8,321 carloads, to 27,482; chemicals, up 980 carloads, to 34,023; and farm products excl. grain, and food, up 98 carloads, to 16,373. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2020 included coal, down 7,710 carloads, to 61,405; nonmetallic minerals, down 5,424 carloads, to 24,620; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 1,952 carloads, to 11,291.

North American rail volume for the week ending January 30, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 333,887 carloads, down 3.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 377,263 intermodal units, up 4.7 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 711,150 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.7 percent. North American rail volume for the first four weeks of 2021 was 2,870,421 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.9 percent compared with 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 81,944 carloads for the week, down 3.4 percent, and 70,571 intermodal units, down 3.3 percent compared with the same week in 2020. For the first four weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 620,608 carloads, containers and trailers, up 5.6 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 20,573 carloads for the week, up 4.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 17,369 intermodal units, down 6.0 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first four weeks of 2021 was 146,290 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 3.7 percent from the same point last year.

Categories: Class 1, Freight, Intermodal, News, Rail News
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