Some Freight Made Gains in April

U.S. rail freight traffic in April showed gains but also fell short of what it was in the same month a year ago.

The Association of American Railroads said combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in April were 2,002,854, a decline of 5.8 percent, or 122,798 carloads and intermodal units when compared with April 2021.

Carload traffic was 919,703 carloads, a fall of 3.4 percent or 31,929 carloads while intermodal traffic was 1,083,151 containers and trailers, a decline of 7.7 percent or 90,869 units.

Eight of the 20 carload commodity categories that AAR tracks saw carload gains compared with April 2021.

These included motor vehicles and parts, up 5,649 carloads or 12 percent; chemicals, up 4,463 carloads or 3.4 percent; and food products, up 1,632 carloads or 6.7 percent.

Losing ground were grain, down 15,817 carloads or 15.2 percent; metallic ores, down 9,070 carloads or 32.5 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 7,670 carloads or 17.3 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads fell by 29,329 carloads, or 4.2 percent, in April 2022. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down by 13,512 carloads, or 2.3 percent.

“U.S. rail traffic in April had something for everyone,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.  “Optimists can point to autos, chemicals and scrap, all of which had solid gains. Pessimists can point to grain, intermodal and petroleum products, which saw significant declines.”

Gray said in the middle were industrial products, an aggregation of seven key carload categories, which fell slightly in April.

During April intermodal traffic set records. Grain, food, lumber, paper, scrap metal and several other commodity categories exceeded the April 2019 pre-pandemic levels as well as April 2020’s pandemic levels, Gray said.

Total carload traffic for the first four months of 2022 has been 3,906,843 carloads, rising 1.1 percent, or 44,191 carloads, from the previous-year period; and 4,453,049 intermodal units, falling 7.1 percent, or 340,541 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 17 weeks of 2022 was 8,359,892 carloads and intermodal units, a 3.4 percent decline from 2021.

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