Posts Tagged ‘Association of American Railroads’

U.S. Freight Traffic Down in 2022

January 5, 2023

U.S. freight railroad carload and intermodal traffic both fell in 2022 the Association of American Railroads reported this week.

Carload traffic was down 0.3 percent while intermodal volume fell 4.9 percent. The comparisons are to calendar year 2021.

Carload traffic for the year was 11,976,283 carloads or 34,001 carloads in 2022. Intermodal volume was 13,452,480 intermodal units or 686,580 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for 2022 was 25,428,763 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 2.8 percent compared to 2021.

Single-digit declines occurred during December 2022 when compared with December 2021.

AAR figures showed railroads originated 842,171 carloads in December 2022, down 4.4 percent, or 38,476 carloads.

December 2022 intermodal traffic was 900,213 containers and trailers down 5.2 percent, or 49,107 units compared with the same month in 2021.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in December 2022 were 1,742,384, down 4.8 percent, or 87,583 carloads and intermodal units from December 2021.

In December 2022, four of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR posted gains.

That included motor vehicles and parts, up 5,842 carloads or 12.9 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 2,034 carloads or 3 percent; and food products, up 721 carloads or 3.2 percent.

Losing ground in December were chemicals, down 16,067 carloads or 12.1 percent; coal, down 12,991 carloads or 5.2 percent; and grain, down 4,589 carloads or 5.2 percent.

“Rail markets are always evolving, and 2022 was no exception,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.

Gray said coal volume grew solidly last year largely because higher natural gas prices made coal-fired electricity generation more competitive.

“However, those same higher natural gas prices, along with other market disruptors, hurt rail chemical volumes since natural gas is a key raw material for chemical manufacturing,” Gray said.

Grain carloads in 2022 were slightly higher than the annual average over the past decade, but they were down compared with 2021, which was the best year for grain carloads since 2008.

Although intermodal traffic in 2022 was the sixth best on record, the grain volume of 2021 was stronger.

November Rail Freight Traffic Another Mixed Bag

December 8, 2022

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. 

U.S. Freight Traffic Up 0.5% in October

November 3, 2022

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.

Rail Traffic Mostly Down in September

October 6, 2022

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.

Jawboning Intensifies Ahead of Rail Stoppage

September 9, 2022

With a potential national railroad strike and/or lockout a week away, a war of words has ensured in various quarters ahead of the Sept. 16 expiration of a 30-day cooling off period.

The Association of American Railroads said this week that a railroad stoppage could cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion a day.

In a related development, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has joined negotiations being supervised by the National Mediation Board with eight railroad unions that have not yet reached tentative agreements.

One report indicated that Walsh told both sides they should avoid messing with the nation’s fragile economy weeks ahead of elections because neither Congress nor the Biden Administration will like it.

He reportedly warned the two sides that they should not expect Congress to act to head off a railroad stoppage by approving a settlement or extending negotiations.

Five of the 12 railroad labor unions have reached tentative agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in labor contract negotiations.

The AAR report said a work stoppage would halt more than 7,000 trains a day and “trigger retail product shortages, widespread manufacturing shutdowns, job losses and disruptions to hundreds of thousands of passenger rail customers.”

The $2 billion impact of a work stoppage on the economy was an update of a 1992 Federal Railroad Administration econometric study to quantify the potential effects of a national rail shutdown on employment and economic output.

Railroad executives fear that a work stoppage could lead some shippers to use other modes of transportation to move freight and some of that lost business might not return to the rails.

The AAR report said that Congress might have to intervene to avert a work stoppage if negotiations fail to resolve the matter.

Some industry observers have suggested that as the Sept. 16 deadline approaches, the parties in the negotiations might voluntarily extend the deadline.

The cooling off period by federal law began upon the Aug. 16 release of the recommendations of a presidential emergency board, which was appointed by President Joseph Biden earlier this summer.

The recommendations of the PEB are not binding on the parties to the negotiations.

An analysis published on the website of Railway Age noted that one factor favoring giving negotiations more time is “outside political duress and internal financial pressure on all stakeholders, which serves to refocus reasonable minds and chill wonderfully even the most pugnacious of negotiators.”

The Railway Age report, though, said that the NCCC indicated on Thursday that railroad management is reluctant to extend the negotiating period in light of how five unions agreeing to tentative contract has set a pattern.

Any tentative contract agreements must be ratified by union members.

Union leadership has been hinting that a strike could strain the finances of the unions if they have to pay their members strike benefits that could exceed $12 million a day.

Some union members have been actively calling for a strike and may be underestimating how much it could cost them.

Strike benefits provide at best a fraction of what workers earn through regular wages and benefits.

Unions have told their members recently that during a strike they could expect no more than $100 a day in strike benefits and $1,200 maximum per month.

Strike benefits would not be paid for the first three days of a strike.

A memo sent to members of the SMART Transportation Division said the cost of paying its 37,000 members strike benefits would be more than $3.7 million per day.

SMART-TD leadership warned that strike benefits could be suspended if needed to protect the financial interests of the union.

Union workers who are away from home when a strike begins would face having to make their own arrangements to return home.

If carriers cut off health care benefits during a strike, workers would be faced with doing without health care insurance for the duration of a work stoppage or having to pay thousands of dollars a month to buy insurance at market rates.

In the meantime the website Politico.com said some of the eight unions still at the bargaining table have reached tentative agreements with the NCCC, but those have yet to be announced.

The Politico report said the unions representing locomotive engineers and conductors and the NCCC continue to be at stalemate over certain issues, including following the terms of agreements reached with the NCCC by other unions.

Leaders of T&E unions said their members have “borne the brunt of inept crew management, life-changing attendance policies, and working conditions over the past years that are making it all but impossible for rail carriers to hire and retain operating employees.”

The leaders of the SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen called on Congress to stay out of the dispute.

“We are confident that the rail carriers will move from their current positions and settle with their employees in a fashion that could be ratified,” if Congress remains on the sidelines, the union leadership said.

Rail Freight Up 0.4% in August

September 8, 2022

U.S. Class I railroads handled 1,189,892 carloads in August 2022, a gain of 2.3 percent, or 27,040 carloads when compared with the same month in 2021.

Figures released by the Association of American Railroads showed that during August 2022 the railroads handled 1,335,618 containers and trailers, down 1.2 percent, or 15,856 units, from August 2021.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations last month were 2,525,510, up 0.4 percent, or 11,184 carloads and intermodal units from August 2021.

Eleven of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains compared with August 2021.

These included coal, up 17,468 carloads or 5.2 percent; grain, up 12,594 carloads or 14.1 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 7,327 carloads or 7.1 percent.

Losing ground were primary metal products, down 6,711 carloads or 14.1 percent; all other carloads, down 4,914 carloads or 15.9 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 3,410 carloads or 6.6 percent.

In a statement, AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said there is reason to believe the nation’s economy is on track to stimulate continued improvements in rail volumes.

“To be sure, some traffic categories are doing better than others, just like some sectors of the economy are doing better than others,” Gray said. “Through additional hiring and continued investments, railroads are preparing themselves for growth.”

Rail Freight Traffic in July Was Mixed Picture

August 4, 2022

The good news in the rail traffic report for July is that 10 of the 20 carload commodities tracked by the Association of American Railroads posted gains.

But the other 10 saw declines, which led AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray to say in a statement that rail traffic for the month was evenly balanced between gains and losses.

“As such, it does not provide definitive evidence regarding the state of the overall economy,” Gray said. “In that respect, it is very similar to most other recent economic indicators.”

U.S. Class I railroads handled 906,903 carloads in July, an increase of 0.2 percent, or 2,213 carloads when compared with July 2021.

That was offset by the traffic of 1,033,906 containers and trailers, which represented a decline of 3 percent, or 32,094 units.

Combined carload and intermodal traffic for the month was 1,940,809, down 1.5  percent, or 29,881 carloads and intermodal units when compared with July 2021.

AAR said commodities that gained ground during July when compared to the same month in 2021 included coal, up 5,588 carloads or 2.2 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 5,197 carloads or 6.7 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, up 3,726 carloads or 8.2 percent.

Losing ground were primary metal products, down 7,065 carloads or 19.2  percent; all other carloads, down 3,311 carloads or 15.1  percent; and stone, clay and glass products, down 2,202 carloads or 6.7  percent.

FRA Proposes 2-Person Crew Rule

July 28, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed requiring that trains have a least two crew members aboard.

The  proposed rule, which is to be published today in the Federal Register, would require at least two crew members for all railroad operations, with exceptions for operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad workers, the public or environment.

In a news release, the FRA said the rule would bring uniformity to the industry by replacing a patchwork of state laws regulating train crew size.

The FRA proposal includes requirements for the location of crew members on a moving train, and would ban the operation of some trains with fewer than two crew members from transporting large amounts of certain hazardous materials. 

FRA officials said the rule contains an assessment and annual oversight requirement to ensure that railroads fully consider and address all relevant safety factors associated with using less-than-two-person crews.

The proposed rule was rebuked by the Association of American Railroads as “misguided.”

In a statement the AAR said the FRA considered and rejected a similar two-person crew rule in 2019 after finding the absence  of a safety justification for it.

Freight Traffic Down 3.2% in June

July 7, 2022

U.S. Class I railroads hauled 1,157,555 carloads in June, a decline of 1.5 percent, or 17,970 carloads when compared with the same month in 2021.

The Association of American Railroads said that intermodal traffic this past June was 1,323,119 containers and trailers, a decline of 4.6 percent or 63,483 units compared with June 2021.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in June 2022 was 2,480,674, a fall of 3.2 percent, or 81,453 carloads and intermodal units compared with the same month last year.

AAR said eight of the 20 carload commodities it tracks posted carload gains in June.

These included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 7,028 carloads or 7.3 percent; grain, up 4,794 carloads or 4.5 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, up 3,839 carloads or 6.2 percent.

Losing ground were coal, down 10,226 carloads or 3.1 percent; all other carloads, down 7,532 carloads or 23.1 percent; and primary metal products, down 5,388 carloads or 11.6 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were down 7,744 carloads, or 0.9 percent, in June 2022 from June 2021. Excluding coal and grain, they were down 12,538 carloads, or 1.7 percent.

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said this week that the June traffic report doesn’t indicate whether the economy is on the verge of a recession as many economists are warning.

“Like many other economic indicators today, rail traffic is a mix of red, yellow and green, with some traffic lines, such as automotive, providing generally positive indicators, while others, such as chemicals, being a bit more subdued than they were earlier in the year,” Gray said.

Carload traffic for the first six months of this year was 5,993,917, down 0.1 percent, or 8,823 carloads compared with the first half of 2021.

Intermodal traffic was 6,878,726 intermodal units, down 6.2 percent, or 453,282 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 26 weeks of 2022 was 12,872,643 carloads and intermodal units, a 3.5 percent drop compared with the same period in 2021.

Automotive Traffic Rebounding on Class 1s

June 7, 2022

Automotive traffic on U.S. Class 1 railroads has improved in recent weeks, which may be evidence that the supply chain in the automotive industry is recovering, Trains magazine reported in an analysis posted on its website.

All seven Class 1 systems have posted gains in automotive traffic during the second quarter of 2022 with CSX and Norfolk Southern respectively reporting increases of more than 10 percent since April 1.

The report drew data from the weekly traffic reports issued by the Association of American Railroads.

Automotive traffic has been hindered in the past two years by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting shortage of semiconductor chips installed in new vehicles during the manufacturing process.

The Trains report noted that the rail systems still trail pre-pandemic automotive traffic levels.

The report can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/railroads-automotive-carloads-show-signs-of-improvement-analysis/