U.S. Freight Traffic Up 0.5% in October

Rail freight traffic in October was up 0.5 percent the Association of American Railroads said on Wednesday.

U.S. railroads originated 952,074 carloads last month, the AAR said, which was 5,121 carloads more than they handled in October 2021.

The totals included 1,062,422 containers and trailers, which was a drop of 1.4 percent or 15,095 units, compared with October 2021.

The combined, carload and intermodal originations of 2,014,496 was down 0.5 percent, or 9,974 carloads and intermodal units, from last year.

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said October is usually one of the highest-volume months of the year for rail carloads and has proven to be the best month thus far in 2022.

Gray said intermodal traffic remains subdued largely because of high inventories at many retailers, lower port volumes and still-scarce warehouse capacity for many rail intermodal customers.

During October seven of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR posted gains.

They included coal, up 14,937 carloads or 5.8 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 8,615 carloads or 10.7 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, up 5,998 carloads or 11.4 percent. Losing ground were chemicals, down 6,195 carloads or 4.8 percent; primary metal products, down 4,645 carloads or 13.2 percent; and all other carloads, down 4,209 carloads or 16.8 percent.

All comparisons are with October 2021.

Gray noted that grain traffic surged because producers chose rail as an alternative to the Mississippi River constraints. He said motor vehicles traffic had one of its better months since before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020.

“Carloads of chemicals were down in part because of high natural gas feedstock prices,” Gray said in a statement.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 9,816, or 1.4 percent, in October compared with October 2021. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 8,950, or 1.5 percent.

AAR said rail freight volume in October was similar to the result of July and August when carloads were up and intermodal volume was down.

In September carloads and intermodal volume alike were down compared to the same month in 2021.

Thus far in 2022, U.S. carload traffic has been 9,971,376 carloads, up 0.1 percent, or 14,912 carloads, compared with the first 10 months of 2021.

Intermodal traffic has been 11,321,976 intermodal units, down 4.8 percent, or 567,366 containers and trailers.

Total combined freight traffic for the first 43 weeks of 2022 was 21,293,352 carloads and intermodal units, a 2.5 percent decline compared with last year.

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