Rail Traffic Up 11.6% Last Week

U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 20 was 513,325 carloads and intermodal units, an 11.6 percent increase over the same week in 2020.

However, that gain comes with a caveat. It has now been a year since rail traffic began plummeting due to a slowing economy that responded to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Association of American Railroads, which compiles weekly rail freight traffic data, noted that a year ago last week “widespread economy-wide shutdowns” prompted large reduction in rail volumes.

Therefore, all rail traffic comparisons of the past week with the same week in 2020 are higher. Total rail traffic for the week ending March 13, however, was similar at 520,736, including 230,684 total carloads and 290,052 containers and trailers.

Both segments of rail traffic volume saw substantial gains following winter weather challenges this past February.

For the week ending March 20, there were 230,605 total carloads, up 2.9 percent compared with 2020.

The weekly intermodal volume was 282,720 containers and trailers, up 19.8 percent.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks posted gains compared with the same week in 2020.

They included grain, up 6,332 carloads, to 27,332; coal, up 3,670 carloads, to 59,816; and metallic ores and metals, up 1,977 carloads, to 20,567.

Losing ground were chemicals, down 2,960 carloads, to 31,540; nonmetallic minerals, down 1,497 carloads, to 29,177; and motor vehicles and parts, down 952 carloads, to 14,927.

For the first 11 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads had cumulative volume of 2,448,722 carloads, a decline of 4.3 percent from the same point last year; and 3,044,628 intermodal units, a rise of 10.7 percent from 2020.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 11 weeks of the year was 5,493,350 carloads and intermodal units, a 3.5 percent increase.

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