Rail Freight Traffic Down 17.6% in July

U.S. rail freight traffic in July was down 17.6 percent compared with the same month in 2019, the Association of American Railroads said on Wednesday.

The carriers originated 1,042,017 carloads in July 2020, down 222,337 carloads from July 2019.

They originated 1,295,960 containers and trailers in July, 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.

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 declined included commodities coal, down 110,225 carloads or 28.7 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 29,547 carloads or 24.8 percent; and metallic ores, down 21,942 carloads or 63.7 percent.

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.

“The old saying, ‘You have to play the hand you’re dealt’ applies to railroads,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.

“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.”

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.

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