Rail Freight Increases Slowed in July

U.S. rail freight traffic was up in July, but the percentage increase was significantly lower than that recorded in other recent months the Association of American Railroads reported on Wednesday.

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said this was due to “more difficult comparisons and because various external factors have led to a recent deceleration in rail volumes.”

For example, grain exports were down so grain shipments also fell. Automakers continue to be hindered by semiconductor shortages and are thus producing fewer vehicles.

Gray said slowdowns in the worldwide supply chain has adversely affected rail shippers.

“While all of these should be manageable, temporary setbacks, their convergence has resulted in weaker rail volumes than basic domestic economic factors might otherwise imply,” Gray said.

In July, U.S. Class I railroads originated 904,670 carloads, an increase of 6.6 percent, or 55,969 carloads compared with July 2020.

The carriers originated 1,066,169 containers and trailers, a gain of 1.5 percent or 15,450 units. The combined July originations was 1,970,839, up 3.8 percent, or 71,419 carloads and intermodal units compared with July 2020.

Of the 20 carload commodity categories AAR tracks each month, 10 saw gains in July 2021.

These included: coal, up 31,619 carloads or 14.1 percent; metallic ores, up 14,151 carloads or 137.8 percent; and primary metal products, up 9,802 carloads or 36.4 percent.

Posting declines were motor vehicles and parts, down 12,309 carloads or 21.3 percent; grain, down 6,112 carloads or 7.3 percent; and grain mill products, down 1,862 carloads or 5 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were up 24,350 carloads, or 3.9 percent, in July 2021 vs. the same month last year.

Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 30,462 carloads, or 5.6 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first seven months of 2021 was 6,907,195 carloads, increasing 9.1 percent, or 573,549 carloads, from the same point last year; and 8,398,236 intermodal units, gaining 15.2 percent, or 1,109,282 containers and trailers, from 2020.

Total combined traffic for the first 30 weeks of the year was 15,305,431 carloads and intermodal units, a 12.4 percent increase.

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