Rail Traffic Rose 16.1% Last Week

It was bound to happen. Last year at this time an economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic sent U.S. rail traffic spiraling downward in comparison to the previous year.

This year an improving economy has turned the tables and led to some inflated traffic numbers.

For the week ending March 27, rail traffic was up 16.1 percent, which the Association of American Railroads acknowledged was influenced by comparisons to pandemic-related economy-wide shutdowns that dropped rail volume in 2020.

Last week railroads handled 521,731 carloads and intermodal units.

Total carloads increased 6 percent to 232,561 while intermodal volume grew 25.8 percent to 289,170 containers and trailers.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted gains when compared to the comparable week of 2020.

They included motor vehicles and parts, up 8,081 carloads, to 13,515; grain, up 2,320 carloads, to 24,532; and metallic ores and metals, up 1,145 carloads, to 22,020.

Seeing declines were chemicals, down 656 carloads, to 32,053; petroleum and petroleum products, down 534 carloads, to 10,694; and miscellaneous carloads, down 201 carloads, to 9,341.

For the first 12 weeks of 2021, railroads have handled cumulative volume of 2,681,283 carloads, falling 3.4 percent from the same point last year, and 3,333,798 intermodal units, a gain of 11.9 percent.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 12 weeks of the year was 6,015,081 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 4.5 percent.

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