Freight Traffic Fell in April, AAR Says

U.S. Rail traffic during April continued to decline, the Association of American Railroads said this week.

Traffic for the month was down 6.0 percent or 120,898 carloads and intermodal units compared to the same month in 2022.

During April, U.S. Class I railroads hauled 1,881,950 carloads a gain of 936,637 carloads or 1.8 percent when compared with April 2022.

However, the 945,313 containers and trailers that the carriers handled during the month was a loss of 12.7 percent compared with the same month in 2022.

Seven of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month posted gains compared with April 2022.

These included: coal, up 10,098 carloads or 4.1 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 7,901 carloads or 9.7 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, up 6,483 carloads or 12.3 percent.

Losing ground were chemicals, down 4,677 carloads or 3.4 percent; grain, down 3,294 carloads or 3.7 percent; and nonmetallic minerals, down 2,263 carloads or 14.9 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were up 6,883 carloads, or 1.0 percent. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 10,177 carloads, or 1.7 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first four months of 2023 was 3,930,129 carloads, up 0.6 percent, or 23,161 carloads, from the same period last year; and 3,968,876 intermodal units, down 10.9 percent, or 484,228 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 17 weeks of 2023 has been 7,899,005 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 5.5 percent compared to last year.

In a statement, AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said intermodal volume continues to lag due to significantly lower trade activity at ports, weaker consumer demand, and continued excess retail inventories from the pandemic era.

 “These headwinds won’t last forever,” Gray said. “When they dissipate, railroads will be prepared to meet their customers’ needs safely and reliably.”

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