Rail traffic—a faint light at the end of the tunnel? ‘Perhaps,’ says AAR

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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A light at the end of the tunnel?
David C. Lester

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending May 23, 2020.

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 428,715 carloads and intermodal units, down 19.2 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending May 23 were 190,639 carloads, down 27.5 percent compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 238,076 containers and trailers, down 11.2 percent compared to 2019.

None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 32,660 carloads, to 46,863; motor vehicles and parts, down 12,171 carloads, to 4,874; and metallic ores and metals, down 8,733 carloads, to 14,805.

“Of the 20 carload categories we track, 15 had modestly higher loadings last week than the week before, led by motor vehicles and grain. Meanwhile, intermodal originations were higher last week than in any of the previous 11 weeks. While we can’t yet say whether rail traffic and, by extension, the economy, have turned a corner, these are all encouraging signs,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “As areas across the country begin to reopen over the next several weeks, perhaps we can start looking for light at the end of what has become a rather long tunnel. Whatever the outcome, railroads will do their part to get us out of the tunnel safely and reliably.”

For the first 21 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,533,784 carloads, down 14.3 percent from the same point last year; and 4,970,889 intermodal units, down 11.3 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 21 weeks of 2020 was 9,504,673 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 12.8 percent compared to last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending May 23, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 272,100 carloads, down 26.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 313,831 intermodal units, down 10.8 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 585,931 carloads and intermodal units, down 18.7 percent. North American rail volume for the first 21 weeks of 2020 was 13,140,443 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.4 percent compared with 2019.

Canadian railroads reported 65,535 carloads for the week, down 22.5 percent, and 61,901 intermodal units, down 5.8 percent compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 21 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,927,865 carloads, containers and trailers, down 7.1 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 15,926 carloads for the week, down 26 percent compared with the same week last year, and 13,854 intermodal units, down 23.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 21 weeks of 2020 was 707,905 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 8.7 percent from the same point last year.

Categories: Class 1, Freight, Intermodal, Railroad News
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