Intermodal Traffic Continues Record Gains

Intermodal traffic last month was robust enough to set a record, the Association of American Railroads said on Wednesday.

In releasing U.S. rail freight traffic statistics for May, AAR said intermodal had the “best January to May period ever.”

AAR said total carloads for the month “were the most for any month since October 2019 on a weekly average basis,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.

U.S. railroads originated 964,356 carloads in May 2021, a 30.4 percent gain, or 224,623 carloads when compared with May 2020.

They originated 1,151,824 containers and trailers, an increase of 26.2 percent, or 238,927 units. During May carload and intermodal traffic combined totaled 2,116,180, up 28 percent, or 463,550 carloads.

Gray described U.S. rail volumes for May as “encouraging.” Of the 20 carload categories AAR tracks each month, 12 had gains over May 2019 and 18 had gains over May 2020.

These included coal, up 77,228 carloads or 41.7 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 34,021 carloads or 206.5 percent; and chemicals, up 23,368 carloads or 20.8 percent.

Commodities that lost ground in May 2021 included: farm products excluding grain, down 166 carloads or 4.9 percent; and primary forest products, down 67 carloads or 1.7 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were up by 147,395, or 26.6 percent. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up by 131,319, or 28 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first five months of 2021 was 4,827,293 carloads, up 7.3 percent, or 329,416 carloads, from the same point last year; and 5,945,322 intermodal units, up 19.2 percent, or 957,198 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 21 weeks of the year was 10,772,615 carloads and intermodal units, a 13.6 percent boost compared with 2020.

“Railroads hope to build on these gains in the months ahead as they help the economy return to strong, sustainable growth,” Gray said.

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