Rail Traffic Mostly Down in September

September turned out to be a downer for rail freight traffic.

The Association of American Railroads said this week that for the month intermodal traffic fell by 4.8 percent while carload traffic was down 1.1 percent.

The percentages are in comparison to traffic in September 2021.

AAR figures showed U.S. Class I railroads originated 928,590 carloads in September 2022, decreasing by 10,639 carloads when compared with the same month last year.

The railroads last month handled 1,011,304 containers and trailers, a decline  of 51,039 units compared with September 2021.

Combined carload and intermodal originations in September 2022 were 1,939,894, down 3.1 percent, or 61,678 carloads and intermodal units when compare with the same month in 2021.

In a news release, AAR’s John T. Gray, senior vice president, said the September decline reflected a decline in consumer purchases.

He said that in late 2020 and throughout 2021 retailers overbought inventory and with slowing consumer demand they now have substantial inventories of unsold goods, which in turn is creating weak replacement demand.

With fewer consumers buying goods via the Internet, there has been less movement of trailers carrying packaged goods by rail.

The AAR said that during September six of the 20 carload commodity categories it tracks posted carload gains compared with September 2021.

These included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 8,987 carloads or 11.2 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 8,380 carloads or 18 percent; and coal, up 4,886 carloads or 1.8 percent. Commodities posting declines included primary metal products, down 6,341 carloads or 16.6 percent; all other carloads, down 4,879 carloads or 21 percent; and grain, down 4,227 carloads or 5 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 15,525 carloads, or 2.3 percent, in September compared with the same month in 2022. Excluding coal and grain, carload traffic fell 1,298 carloads, or 1.9 percent.

Total carload traffic for the first nine months of 2022 has been 9,019,302 carloads, up 0.1 percent, or 9,791 carloads compared with the same time last year.

Intermodal traffic has been 10,259,554 units, down 5.1 percent, or 552,271 containers and trailers compared to this time last year.

Total combined traffic for the first 39 weeks of this year has been 19,278,856 carloads and intermodal units, a 2.7 percent fall compared with 2021.

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