U.S. Rail Freight Traffic Had Mixed March

U.S. rail freight traffic was decidedly mixed during March, the Association of American Railroads reported.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations for the month were 2,507,684, a decline of 3 percent or 78,714 carloads and intermodal units when compared with March 2021.

That breaks down to 1,169,546 carloads—up 1.2 percent or 13,456 carloads compared with the same month in 202.

Intermodal traffic for March 2022 was 1,338,138 containers and trailers, a drop of 6.4 percent or 92,170 units compared with last year.

John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president, said chemical carload traffic had its best month ever but grain, petroleum products and papers products posted significant declines.

At the same time Gray said carloads of crushed stone and sand, food products, lumber, and motor vehicles “were higher than they’ve been in months.”

Calling these trend “conflicting,” Gray said they reflect “an economy with a good deal of directional uncertainty; uncertainty that needs resolution before its full potential can be realized.”

The AAR figures showed that in March nine of the 20 carload commodity categories that it tracks posted gains compared with March 2021.

These included chemicals, up 18,291 carloads or 11.7 percent; coal, up 16,637 carloads or 5.4 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 7,974 carloads or 8.5 percent.

Losing ground were grain, down 13,839 carloads or 10.8 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, down 9,033 carloads or 16.5 percent; and all other carloads, down 4,459 carloads or 14.6 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads fell by 3,181, or 0.4 percent. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up by 10,658, or 1.5 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first three months of 2022 was 2,987,140, a gain of 2.6 percent, or 76,120 carloads compared with the first three months of 2021.

Railroads handled 3,369,898 intermodal units, a decline of 6.9 percent or 249,672 containers and trailers.

Total combined traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2022 was 6,357,038 carloads and intermodal units, a 2.7 percent decline from 2021.

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