AAR: Carload and intermodal traffic remains down, but has begun to rebound

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US intermodal and carload traffic table, by commodity group, for the week ended May 30, 2020.
Association of American Railroads
WASHINGTON — The Association of American Railroads today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending May 30, 2020, as well as volumes for May 2020.

U.S. railroads originated 740,171 carloads in May 2020, down 27.7%, or 282,965 carloads, from May 2019. U.S. railroads also originated 912,922 containers and trailers in May 2020, down 13%, or 136,241 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in May 2020 were 1,653,093, down 20.2%, or 419,206 carloads and intermodal units from May 2019.

In May 2020, one of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with May 2019. It was farm products excluding grain, up 324 carloads or 10.6%. Commodities that saw declines in May 2020 from May 2019 were coal, down 127,201 carloads or 40.7%; motor vehicles & parts, down 49,341 carloads or 75%; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 18,196 carloads or 19.4%.

“Overall traffic levels last week were down from the prior week as would be expected for a week which includes a national holiday” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “However, it is somewhat heartening to note that 11 of the 20 carload categories, including several major commodity areas, improved their showing versus 2019 when comparing their current loading rates to those we have seen the last four weeks. Perhaps most notably, automobile loadings improved to about one-third the normal level as assembly plants began the intricate process of reopening. While this is still a long way from where we would like to be, it is far better than the ten percent of norm of only two weeks ago.”

Excluding coal, carloads were down 155,764 carloads, or 21.9%, in May 2020 from May 2019. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 150,701 carloads, or 24.3%.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first five months of 2020 was 4,713,757 carloads, down 14.7%, or 815,413 carloads, from the same period last year; and 5,186,630 intermodal units, down 11.3%, or 661,703 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 22 weeks of 2020 was 9,900,387 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 13% compared to last year.

Week Ending May 30, 2020

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 395,714 carloads and intermodal units, down 17.3% compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending May 30 were 179,973 carloads, down 24.2% compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 215,741 containers and trailers, down 10.6% compared to 2019.

Two of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. They were miscellaneous carloads, up 555 carloads, to 8,794; and grain, up 410 carloads, to 21,246. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 24,551 carloads, to 46,144; metallic ores and metals, down 8,470 carloads, to 12,637; and motor vehicles and parts, down 8,052 carloads, to 6,629.

North American rail volume for the week ending May 30, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 264,612 carloads, down 22.8% compared with the same week last year, and 293,159 intermodal units, down 9.9% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 557,771 carloads and intermodal units, down 16.5%. North American rail volume for the first 22 weeks of 2020 was 13,698,214 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.6% compared with 2019.

Canadian railroads reported 68,657 carloads for the week, down 17.8%, and 63,195 intermodal units, down 5.2% compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 22 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,059,717 carloads, containers and trailers, down 7.3%.

Mexican railroads reported 15,982 carloads for the week, down 26% compared with the same week last year, and 14,223 intermodal units, down 19.3%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 22 weeks of 2020 was 738,110 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 9.3% from the same point last year.

— From an Association of American Railroads news release. June 3, 2020.

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