Posts Tagged ‘John Gray’

Intermodal Traffic Fell 6.7% in September

October 7, 2021

Figures released by the Association of American Railroads on Wednesday confirmed what has been apparent for several weeks.

Intermodal traffic on U.S. Class 1 railroads is struggling, falling by 6.7 percent in September compared with the same month in 2020.

“Rail intermodal volume is clearly not what it has been and could be,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.

“Keeping intermodal terminals functioning smoothly and at full capacity depends on consistent freight outflows to make room for new freight inflows,” Gray said.

“Unfortunately, due to limited availability of downstream truck and warehouse capacity, that’s not happening right now with predictable impacts on rail intermodal volume. There is no single solution to this problem, but railroads are bringing intermodal yard capacity back online to increase storage availability as well as working with customers and truckers to accelerate container pickup, among other efforts.

Otherwise, rail freight traffic at Class 1 railroads is trending upward with the carriers reporting having handled 1,167,682 carloads in September 2021, an increase of 4.3 percent (or 47,858 carloads) compared with September 2020.

Railroads hauled 1,328,527 containers and trailers, a decline of 95,317 units compared with last year.

Total carload and intermodal originations for September was 2,496,209, down 1.9 percent (or 47,459 carloads and intermodal units) compared with the same month last year.

AAR said 15 of the 20 carload commodity categories it tracks posted gains compared with September 2020.

These included: coal, up 40,954 carloads or 13.7 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 11,107 carloads or 12.5 percent; and primary metal products, up 8,675 carloads or 22.4 percent.

Losing ground last month were motor vehicles and parts, down 22,486 carloads or 27.6 percent; grain, down 17,312 carloads or 14.7 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 1,616 carloads or 3.1 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads increased by 6,904, or 0.8 percent, in September 2021 compared with. September 2020.  Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 24,216, or 3.5 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first nine months of 2021 was 9,009,639, an increase of 7.9 percent, or 658,222 carloads;, and 10,812,108 intermodal units, a 9.9 percent rise, or 976,362 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 39 weeks of the year was 19,821,747 carloads and intermodal units, up 9 percent from the same period in 2020.

U.S. Freight Traffic Up 14.5% in June

July 8, 2021

U.S. railroads in June originated 1,175,232 carloads and increase of 19.1 percent or 188,164 carloads compared with June 2021.

Intermodal traffic for the month was 1,386,745 containers and trailers, a rise of 10.9 percent or 136,634 units over the same month in 2020.

Combined originations for June were 2,561,977, up 14.5 percent, or 324,798 carloads and intermodal units over June 2020.

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said the June figures were part of a second quarter performance that “reflect an economy that is in much better shape than it was but still has room to grow.”

AAR said that second-quarter carloads were the highest since the fourth quarter of 2019. Excluding coal they were the highest since the third quarter of 2019.

Gray said intermodal and chemical volumes were “both the highest for any quarter in history.” The AAR report said steel-related commodities were “relatively strong in the second quarter, reflecting higher demand as the industrial economy continues to recover.”

Of the 20 carload categories AAR tracks each month, 19 posted gains last month.

They included: coal, up 84,109 carloads or 33.5 percent; chemicals, up 22,660 carloads or 16 percent; and metallic ores, up 20,228 carloads or 164.6 percent. Only farm products excluding grain posted a decline by falling 425 carloads or 10.6 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were up 104,055 carloads, or 14.1 percent. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 100,564 carloads, or 15.9 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first six months of 2021 was 6,002,525 carloads, up 9.4 percent, or 517,580 carloads, and 7,332,067 intermodal units, up 17.5 percent, or 1,093,832 containers and trailers, from 2020.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 26 weeks the year was 13,334,592 carloads and intermodal units, a 13.7 percent boost from 2020.

Rail Freight Up 5.3% in January

February 4, 2021

U.S. railroad freight traffic in January was up 5.3 percent compared to the same month in 2020.

Combined carload and intermodal originations were 2,103,523, or 106,749 carloads and intermodal units higher than last year.

Railroads originated 1,173,220 containers and trailers, increasing 12.1 percent, or 126,548 units, compared with January 2020.

They originated 930,303 carloads for the month, falling 2.1 percent, or 19,799 carloads, from January 2020.

 “We are encouraged by rail volumes in January,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.

“U.S. intermodal shipments and carloads of chemicals set new records; grain had its biggest-ever year-over-year increase; total carloads were the highest they’ve been in a year; and carloads excluding coal actually grew year-over-year for the second straight month.”

Gray said the economy still faces uncertainty but he is cautiously optimistic about the future.

Ten of 20 carload groups posted gains in January 2021.

Grain accounted for an additional 31,434 carloads, a 40 percent increase. Gray said it was the largest increase on a year-over-year comparison.

Excluding coal, carloads increased on a year-over-year basis for the second month.

They were up by 15,557, or 2.3 percent, in January 2021 compared with January 2020.

Carloads excluding coal and grain, however, were down by 15,877, or 2.7 percent.

Also posting increases during January were chemicals, up 5,717 carloads or 4.4 percent; and metallic ores, up 5,190 carloads or 28.7 percent.

Commodities that fell included coal, down 35,356 carloads or 12.7 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 14,097 carloads or 18.9 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 6,529 carloads or 12.1 percent.

U.S. Rail Traffic Fell 7.2% in 2020

January 7, 2021

The tally for 2020 is now complete.

U.S. railroad hauled 25,157,476 carloads and intermodal units last year, a decline of 7.2 percent compared to 2019.

The Association of American Railroads said carload traffic for the year was 11,482,059 units, down 12.9 percent. The railroad s hauled 13,675,417 containers and trailers, a decline of 1.8 percent.

Most of the decline has been attributed to an economic downturn prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but not all of it.

AAR Senior Vice President John Gray said in a statement that before the pandemic deepened last March, railroads were on “less than ideal footing” due to a weakened manufacturing sector and lower port activity caused by trade disputes.

Despite enjoying near-record traffic declines during the early months of 2020, U.S. railroads rallied to close the year with volume close to pre-pandemic levels.

Gray said that was due to sharply higher grain and intermodal shipments, along with the reopening of auto assembly plants.

“It’s no surprise that rail volumes were down for the year overall, but railroads are looking to the future,” Gray said.

“Their experience in 2020 along with huge ongoing network investments have made the industry more adaptable and better able to adjust to the demands of a wide range of operational and market conditions. Railroads are well prepared to help our economy grow in 2021.”

AAR said that during December U.S. railroads hauled 2,435,819 carloads and intermodal units, a 4.4 percent increase compared with December 2019.

Total carloads fell 3.7 percent to 1,101,324 units during the month, while intermodal volume rose 12.2 percent to 1,334,495 containers and trailers.

Ten of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month saw carload gains in December.

These included grain, up 27.9 percent; chemicals, up 3.7 percent; and iron and steel scrap, up 12.9 percent.

Posting declines were coal, down 14.5 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 14.8 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 15.8 percent.

Weekly Freight Loss Slightly Smaller

May 28, 2020

The latest weekly freight volume report contained a small bit of encouraging news.

For the week ending May 23, freight volume was down by double digits, but not down as much as it has been in previous reports.

AAR said weekly rail traffic was 428,715 carloads and intermodal units, down 19.2 percent when compared with the same week of 2019.

Total carloads were 190,639 carloads, down 27 percent compared with 2019 while intermodal volume was 238,076 containers and trailers, down 11.2 percent compared to 2019.

None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019.

Among the weekly declines when comparing 2020 to 2019 were coal, down 32,660 carloads, to 46,863; motor vehicles and parts, down 12,171 carloads, to 4,874; and metallic ores and metals, down 8,733 carloads, to 14,805.

“Of the 20 carload categories we track, 15 had modestly higher loadings last week than the week before, led by motor vehicles and grain,” said AAR senior vice president John Gray.

Gray said intermodal originations were higher last week than in any of the previous 11 weeks.

“While we can’t yet say whether rail traffic and, by extension, the economy, have turned a corner, these are all encouraging signs,” he said.

“As areas across the country begin to reopen over the next several weeks, perhaps we can start looking for light at the end of what has become a rather long tunnel.”

For the first 21 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,533,784 carloads, down 14.3 percent from the same point last year; and 4,970,889 intermodal units, down 11.3 percent from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 21 weeks of 2020 was 9,504,673 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 12.8 percent compared to last year.

Rail Freight Decline Largest Since 1988

May 21, 2020

Rail freight traffic continued to fall in the week ending May 16 reaching levels of decline not seen since 1988.

The Association of American Railroads said railroads handled 416,115 carloads and intermodal units last week, a drop of 22 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week were 184,415 carloads, down 30.2 percent compared with the same week in 2019, while intermodal volume was 231,700 containers and trailers, down 14 percent.

None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019.

Commodity groups that fell compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 35,879 carloads, to 45,756; motor vehicles and parts, down 14,242 carloads, to 2,865; and metallic ores and metals, down 9,245 carloads, to 14,101.

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said in a statement it was the fifth straight week in which coal carloads were down at least 40 percent from last year.

“For many other key rail commodities, including chemicals, petroleum products, and crushed stone and sand, carloads last week were roughly the same as in the previous few weeks, while intermodal originations last week were the most in eight weeks,” Gray said.

For the first 20 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,343,145 carloads, down 13.6 percent from the same point last year, and 4,732,813 intermodal units, down 11.4 percent from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 20 weeks of 2020 was 9,075,958 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 12.5 percent compared to last year.

AAR Says Rail Traffic Fell 21.% Last Week

April 16, 2020

Freight rail traffic continued to falter last week, falling by 21.9 percent.

The Association of American Railroads said during the week ending April 11 total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 412,503 carloads and intermodal units.

The percentage drop of 21.9 percent is in comparison to the same week in April 2019.

Total carloads for the week were 198,726 carloads, down 23.8 percent compared with the same week in 2019, while intermodal volume was 213,777 containers and trailers, down 20 percent.

The coronavirus pandemic played a key role in depressing rail traffic said John T. Gray, an AAR senior vice president.

“When rail customers suffer a drop in demand for their products, their need for transportation services declines as well, and that negatively impacts rail volumes,” he said.

Gray said it is still to early to draw conclusions as to when the current crisis will end.

“But when it does — and it will — railroads will be ready to ramp up their service to safely, reliably and cost-effectively meet the freight transportation needs of our nation,” he said in a statement.

Only grain posted a gain last week, rising by 595 carloads, to 22,237.

Commodity groups that saw decreases compared included coal, down 29,609 carloads, to 52,468; motor vehicles and parts, down 15,521 carloads, to 2,185; and metallic ores and metals, down 5,982 carloads, to 17,949.

For the first 15 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,402,688 carloads, down 8.2 percent from the same point last year; and 3,610,246 intermodal units, down 9.8 percent from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 15 weeks of 2020 was 7,012,934 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 9.1 percent compared to last year.

Rail Traffic Last Week Fell 15.9%

April 10, 2020

The Association of American Railroads said this week that the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was pronounced in its rail traffic report for the week ending April 4.

AAR said the number of carloads and intermodal containers and trailers transported that week plunged by 15.9 percent to 429,095 units compared with volumes logged in the same week a year ago.

Total carloads for the week plunged 16.2 percent to 210,911 units, while intermodal volume dropped 15.7 percent to 218,184 containers and trailers.

AAR Senior Vice President John Gray said in a statement that the last time rail traffic fell this much was during the Great Recession

“Since 1988, when our data begin, total U.S. rail carloads were lower than they were last week only during a few Christmas and New Year’s weeks, when rail operations are seasonally low,” he said.

Gray said coal traffic in particular is falling but even if coal is taken out of the equation, carloads last week were down 13.1 percent.

Two of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks on a weekly basis posted increases last week compared with the same week in 2019.

That included miscellaneous carloads, up 1,369 units to 10,336; and forest products, up 127 units to 9,916.

Commodity groups that dropped during the week included coal, down 17,587 carloads to 57,504; motor vehicles and parts, down 14,389 carloads to 3,171; and nonmetallic minerals, down 4,526 carloads to 31,527.

“The worst performing commodity category last week was autos and auto parts, with North American carloads down 84 percent from what they were just three weeks ago,” Gray said.

“It wasn’t just autos, though. Last week, 13 of the 20 U.S. carload categories we track [on a monthly basis], representing 87 percent of total carloads, saw year-over-year declines, including big declines in steel scrap, steel products, nonferrous scrap, crushed stone and sand, and petroleum products.”

Gray said the traffic numbers reflect the pandemic’s impact on U.S. industry.

Although China is showing signs of recovering from the pandemic, Gray said that won’t affect North American intermodal traffic until consumer spending picks up.

“That, in turn, will depend on how long social distancing steps must remain in place; how well and how quickly federal and state unemployment insurance and other programs fill gaps in household cash flows; and how much the current situation causes consumers to lose long-term confidence and remain in retrench mode not just when health concerns begin to recede, but more importantly, when they have been largely resolved,” Gray said.

March Rail Freight Traffic Fell

April 2, 2020

March was a tough month for everyone including railroads.

The Association of American Railroads said that rail traffic for the month was down 6 percent compared with volumes for March 2019.

U.S. railroads originated 899,673 carloads in March 2020, or 57,148 fewer carloads than in March 2019.

The carriers originated 935,380 containers and trailers in March 2020, a drop of 12.2 percent or 130,461 units compared with March 2019.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in March 2020 were 1,835,053, down 9.3 percent, or 187,609 carloads and intermodal units from March 2019.

Ten of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains compared with March 2019.

These included: chemicals, up 5,881 carloads or 4.6 percent; all other carloads, up 2,108 carloads or 9.5 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, up 1,688 carloads or 3.5 percent.

Declining commodities included coal, down 43,611 carloads or 15.9 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 11,053 carloads or 15.9 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 10,482 carloads or 12 percent.

“Rail traffic numbers confirm that the coronavirus is taking a toll on the economy,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.

“For example, U.S. carloads of autos and auto parts last week were down 70 percent from the same week last year as auto production declined to zero and consumer spending has begun to shrink demand.

“While intermodal volume last week was down year-over-year 14 percent overall, total movements for the five railroads serving the West Coast ports remained steady for a fifth consecutive week, reinforcing the expectation that we may have seen the bottoming of the Asia-North America trade. However, this week also reminded us that the recent collapse in oil prices is hurting rail shipments of petroleum products, frac sand, and steel products.”

Gray said that there was some encouraging news, including year-over-year carloads of grain rising in March for the first time in a year.

Also rail chemical carloads posted their best volumes in two years.
Excluding coal, carloads were down 13,537 carloads, or 2 percent, in March 2020 compared with March 2019.

Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 15,181 carloads, or 2.5 percent.

Worst of Pandemic on Asian Trade May be Over

March 26, 2020

The Association of American Railroads said in its weekly traffic report that the industry may have seen the worst of the effects of the COVID-19 on Asian trade.

“The good news is that the intermodal volumes of the railroads serving the West Coast ports that receive the bulk of imports from China appear to have plateaued over the past four weeks, indicating that we may have seen the worst of the COVID-19 impacts on the Asia trade,” said AAR Senior Vice President Policy and Economics John T. Gray.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to see rail volumes of other categories soften in the weeks ahead as steps taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 continue to impact producers, both here and abroad, particularly those of consumer goods or intermediate products from which those goods are produced,” Gray said.

For the week ended March 21, U.S. weekly rail traffic was 459,966 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.6 percent compared with the same week in March 2019.

Carloads for the week were 224,048 carloads, down 5.4 percent compared with the same week in 2019, while intermodal volume was 235,918 containers and trailers, down 11.4 percent compared to 2019.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019.

They were chemicals, up 3,760 carloads, to 34,471; miscellaneous carloads, up 858 carloads, to 9,747; and farm products excl. grain, and food, up 507 carloads, to 15,984.

Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 9,223 carloads, to 56,093; nonmetallic minerals, down 4,774 carloads, to 30,674; and metallic ores and metals, down 1,427 carloads, to 18,576.

“Demand for rail service depends on the demand further down the chain for the products railroads haul and on the ability of firms they serve to produce what is demanded,” Gray said.

“Autos are a good example. What with job uncertainty and either voluntary or enforced social distancing for many people, this isn’t a great time to visit new car showrooms, so demand for autos is down.

“Further, most automakers have suspended manufacturing operations for the time being. As a result of both these factors, rail carloads of autos and auto parts fell considerably this past week.”