US rail traffic posting declines compared with July 2019

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Table of July 2020 rail freight traffic statistics
Association of American Railroads
WASHINGTON – The Association of American Railroads reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Aug. 1 as well as volumes for July 2020.

U.S. railroads originated 1,042,017 carloads in July 2020, down 17.6 percent, or 222,337 carloads, from July 2019. U.S. railroads also originated 1,295,960 containers and trailers in July 2020, down 1.4 percent, or 18,403 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in July 2020 were 2,337,977, down 9.3 percent, or 240,740 carloads and intermodal units from July 2019.

In July 2020, three of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with July 2019. These were food products, up 475 carloads or 1.7 percent; farm products excl. grain, up 295 carloads or 8.3 percent; and lumber & wood products, up 258 carloads or 1.6 percent. Commodities that saw declines in July 2020 from July 2019 included: coal, down 110,225 carloads or 28.7 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 29,547 carloads or 24.8 percent; and metallic ores, down 21,942 carloads or 63.7 percent.

“The old saying, ‘You have to play the hand you’re dealt’ applies to railroads,” says AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Rail traffic, like the overall economy, is generally trending in the right direction, but progress is slow; there’s a long way to go before it’s back to normal; and both week-to-week improvements and setbacks in individual commodities are to be expected. Coal and other energy-related rail commodities continue to struggle more than most, while intermodal is closer than any other rail traffic category to pre-pandemic levels.”

Excluding coal, carloads were down 112,112 carloads, or 12.7 percent, in July 2020 from July 2019. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 100,575 carloads, or 13.2 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first seven months of 2020 was 6,550,030 carloads, down 16.2 percent, or 1,266,725 carloads, from the same period last year; and 7,487,523 intermodal units, down 9.1 percent, or 751,100 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 31 weeks of 2020 was 14,037,553 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 12.6 percent compared to last year.

—From an AAR press release

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