November Rail Freight Traffic Another Mixed Bag

U.S. rail traffic in November presented another mixed bag with some commodities growing but others losing ground.

Figures released by the Association of American Railroad showed that Class I railroads handled 1,162,736 carloads in November 2022, down 0.9 percent, or 10,437 carloads, from the same month in 2021.

Intermodal traffic was 1,230,291 containers and trailers, down 5.4 percent, or 70,107 units, compared with November 2021.

The combined carload and intermodal originations of 2,393,027, was down 3.3 percent, or 80,544 carloads and intermodal units compared with the same month last year.

Eight eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR posted gains.

These included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 8,726 carloads or 9.2 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 5,372 carloads or 8.3 percent; and all other carloads, up 2,579 carloads or 10 percent.

Losing ground were chemicals, down 17,608 carloads or 10.3 percent; grain, down 3,757 carloads or 3 percent; and pulp and paper products, down 1,993 carloads or 7.2 percent.

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said some of the losses can be attributed to economic factors in the industries associated with those commodities.

“For example, relatively slow lumber carloads are consistent with the weak market for new home construction,” Gray said in a statement.

“Conversely, rail-hauled motor vehicles and vehicle parts volumes have been rising as automakers have increased output thanks to greater parts availability.”

He said another factor is that historically Thanksgiving week is one of the lowest-volume weeks of the year for rail traffic.

During November if coal is excluded, carloads fell by 12,153 carloads, or 1.4 percent. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down by 8,396 carloads, or 1.2 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2022 was 11,134,112 carloads, up 0 percent, or 4,475 carloads, from the same period last year.

Intermodal traffic has been 12,552,267 intermodal units, down 4.8 percent, or 637,473 containers and trailers, from the year-ago period.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2022 has been 23,686,379 carloads and intermodal units, a 2.6 percent decrease from 2021. 

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