Posts Tagged ‘U.S. rail traffic’

Freight Traffic Down 1.3% Last Week

September 16, 2021

U.S. freight traffic fell 1.3 percent for the week ending Sept. 11.

The Association of American Railroads said traffic was 468,610 carloads and intermodal units. AAR officials said declines in intermodal volume offset carload gains.

U.S. Class I railroads moved 223,710 carloads, a gain of 4.5 percent compared with the same week in 2020.

Railroads handled 244,900 containers and trailers, a loss of 6 percent and the sixth consecutive week of intermodal losses.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR saw gains compared with the same week in 2020.

They included coal, up 9,749 carloads, to 69,927; metallic ores and metals, up 4,227 carloads, to 22,395; and nonmetallic minerals, up 3,731 carloads, to 30,476.

Posting declined were motor vehicles and parts, down 4,862 carloads, to 10,121; grain, down 4,830 carloads, to 16,718; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 558 carloads, to 9,797.

For the first 36 weeks of 2021, railroads handled a cumulative volume of 8,293,870 carloads, a 8.2 percent gain compared with 2020; and 9,994,693 intermodal units, an 11.5 percent gain.

Total combined traffic for the first 36 weeks of 2021 was 18,288,563 carloads and intermodal units, a 10 percent increase from last year.

U.S. Rail Freight Down 2.6% Last Week

August 26, 2021

U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Aug. 21 fell 2.6 percent when compared to the same week in 2020, the Association of American Railroads reported.

The carriers handled 501,273 carloads and intermodal units, AAR said.

That also is a decline compared to the same week in 2019 Susquehanna Financial Group Analyst Bascome Majors said.

Majors said the four-week trend was up 1 percent vs. 2020 and down 6 percent from 2019.

AAR said Class 1 railroads last week handled 230,754 carloads, an increase of 0.4 percent and 270,519 containers and trailers, a fall of 5.1 percent compared with 2020.

It was the third consecutive week that intermodal posted declines compared with 2020.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR saw increases compared with the same week in 2020.

They included metallic ores and metals, up 4,551 carloads, to 23,522; nonmetallic minerals, up 2,802 carloads, to 33,109; and miscellaneous carloads, up 1,042 carloads, to 10,653.

Losing ground were grain, down 4,483 carloads, to 18,098; motor vehicles and parts, down 2,513 carloads, to 13,974; and farm products excluding grain, and food, down 1,042 carloads, to 14,906.

For the first 33 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads handled cumulative volume of 7,607,296 carloads, a gain of 8.6 percent from the same point last year; and 9,213,825 intermodal units, an increase of 13.3 percent over 2020.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 33 weeks of 2021 was 16,821,121 carloads and intermodal units, rising 11.1 percent from last year.

Rail Freight Continued ‘Inflated’ Gains Last Week

April 21, 2021

U.S. rail freight traffic for the week ending April 17 was up 32.2 percent when compared to the same week in 2020.

The Association of American Railroads said railroads last week hauled 533,217 carloads and intermodal units.

Those broke down to 237,607 carloads and 295,610 intermodal units, an increase of 25.2 percent and 38.3 percent respectively over the same week last year.

It was the fifth consecutive week, AAR said, that the percentage changes for some rail traffic categories were “inflated” due to pandemic-related “shutdowns—and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes—that affected many economic sectors last year at this time.”

Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups saw gains compared with the same week in 2020. This included coal, up 13,166 carloads, to 61,600; motor vehicles and parts, up 10,606 carloads, to 12,549; and metallic ores and metals, up 7,533 carloads, to 24,803.

Losing ground last week was petroleum and petroleum products, down 120 carloads, to 10,829.

For the first 15 weeks of 2021, U.S. railroads have handled a cumulative volume of 3,382,004 carloads for the first 15 weeks of 2021.

This is up 0.2 percent from the comparable 2020 period.

The traffic breakdown for 2021 includes 4,195,580 intermodal units for the first 15 weeks of the year, a 15.7 percent increase from 2020.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the period was 7,577,584 carloads and intermodal units, rising 8.2 percent compared with last year.

Rail Freight Traffic Up 5.2% Last Week

November 19, 2020

The Association of American Railroads said rail freight traffic for the week ending Nov. 14 was 527,462 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.2 percent compared with the same week of 2019.

Total carloads were 232,146, down 3.1 percent but intermodal volume was 295,316 containers and trailers, an increase of 12.9 percent.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR saw increases.

They included grain, up 6,783 carloads, to 29,123; farm products excluding grain, and food, up 1,046 carloads, to 16,384; and metallic ores and metals, up 587 carloads, to 19,581.

Posting declines were coal, down 12,148 carloads, to 60,414; petroleum and petroleum products, down 3,211 carloads, to 10,744; and nonmetallic minerals, down 1,125 carloads, to 29,067.

For the first 46 weeks of 2020, the cumulative volume was 9,941,003 carloads, down 14.1 percent compared to the same point in 2019.

Intermodal volume was 11,793,296, down 3.7 percent from last year.

Total combined traffic for the first 46 weeks was 21,734,299 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 8.8 percent.

Grim Prognosis for Rail Freight Recovery

July 10, 2020

Transportation analysts speaking on a webcast this week said it is too early to tell if railroads will lose market share to trucks as they recover from the recession induced in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysts said during the webcast, which was sponsored by FRT Transportation Intelligence, there is evidence that trucking companies are getting back to the volume of business they had before the pandemic began last spring but rail volume remains subdued.

Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR, said some shippers who were upset with Class 1 railroads before the pandemic might have taken advantage of a “loose” trucking market to shift some business there.

But Tranausky said it is still too early to say if railroads will lose market share to truckers as they did following the Great Recession of 2008.

He said railroads will rebuild market share if they can continue to provide consistent service of a quality similar to what they are offering now.

Rail freight carloads have risen since May but remain at about 85 percent of their pre-pandemic levels.

One advantage truckers have is they can haul industrial materials and consumer products. The latter are less likely to travel by rail.

Until manufacturing picks up, rail carload volumes will continue to lag. FTR analysts do not expect rail carload volume to recover through the rest of 2020 because industrial production has been slow to return.

Another factor is that truck capacity is expected to continue to be below capacity through at least May 2021, something that is not good news for railroad intermodal business.

“That’s going to make it harder for intermodal to be competitive,” Tranausky said.

Looming on the horizon may be another wave of business shutdowns and dimming consumer demand due to surging COVID-19 infection rates in several states.

Those could threaten the U.S. economy and hurt freight volumes.

Tariffs Not Hurting Railroads — Yet

July 12, 2018

Although the railroad industry has been warning about being adversely affected by the growing trade war being waged by the Trump administration, those effects have not yet shown up in the most recent freight traffic figures.

Nonetheless it may be too early for that evidence to be appearing.

Just this week Edward Hamberger, the CEO of the Association of American Railroads warned that recently announced tariffs on certain foreign goods will hinder global commerce and could reverse economic progress.

“The president’s more recent trade decisions could reverse that tremendous progress, adding hundreds of billions of dollars in potential costs for American businesses — costs that could ultimately be borne by consumers,” Hamberger and two other CEOs wrote in an op ed column that appeared in the Washington Examiner.

Also writing the column were American Chemistry Council head Cal Dooley and American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard.

The most recent figures issued by AAR showed that U.S. Class 1 railroads have posted a 9 percent traffic gain through the first six months of the year and a 5 percent gain during June.

“What these tariffs will mean for the overall economy is not clear — their impact will vary from firm to firm and industry to industry, with overall damage depending in part on how long the disputes last and how they escalate,” AAR said last week in its monthly Rail Time Indicators economic outlook.

After the U.S. imposed tariffs on goods coming from China, that country responded by placing tariffs on such American products as soybeans and automobiles.

The U.S. and several European and North American countries have also imposed tariffs on each other’s exports.

Soybean producers were already seeing declining sales to China even before the tariffs were imposed.

During the first four months of 2018, U.S. grain exports are down nearly 7 percent, with soybean exports down 10 percent and wheat off by 22 percent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.

Although intermodal growth this year has been strong, international intermodal container traffic rose just 1.4 percent in June, which might be an indication of slowing traffic.

International intermodal traffic had posted a 7.5 percent increase during the first three months of this year.

Nonetheless, the AAR expects intermodal to set records this year barring  a collapse of international trade.

Anthony B. Hatch, an independent rail analyst with ABH Consulting, told Trains magazine that the Chinese tariffs could have a 6 to 8 percent negative impact on imports of containerized cargo.

Hatch said a strong U.S. dollar has also made U.S. products more expensive aboard.

U.S. Freight Traffic Up 3.3% in April

May 3, 2018

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up 3.3 percent in April when compared to the same month a year ago the Association of American Railroads reported on Wednesday.

The railroads originated 1,051,026 carloads last month, which was 34,020 more carloads than April 2017.

AAR reported that the railroads originated 1,099,000 containers and trailers in April 2018, up 6.8 percent, or 69,630 units, from the same month last year.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in April 2018 were 2,150,026, up 5.1 percent, or 103,650 carloads and intermodal units from April 2017.

“Total U.S. rail traffic so far this year is a shade below where it was in 2015, but otherwise is higher than it’s been in the last 10 years,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.

“Additionally, 15 of the 20 commodity categories we track had higher carloads in April 2018 than in April 2017, the most since January 2015. That’s good news for railroads and good news for the economy.”

Fifteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw gains compared with April 2017.

These included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 8,466 carloads or 8.6 percent; coal, up 7,337 carloads or 2.4 percent; and grain, up 5,305 carloads or 5.7 percent.

Commodities that saw declines in April 2018 from April 2017 included nonmetallic minerals, down 2,513 carloads or 13 percent; waste and nonferrous scrap, down 1,056 carloads or 7.1 percent; and primary forest products, down 651 carloads or 14.6 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads were up 26,683 carloads, or 3.8 percent, in April 2018 from April 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 21,378 carloads, or 3.5 percent.

U.S. Freight Traffic Posted Small Drop Last Week

January 23, 2015

Unexpected downturn in intermodal traffic drove U.S. weekly freight down 1 percent last week compared with a comparable week of a year earlier.

The Association of American Railroads reported at intermodal volume fell 2.4 percent when compared with 2014 levels

The drop in intermodal traffic offset a 0.3 percent gain for other freight carload traffic.

The AAR said five of the 10 carload commodity groups that it measures posted increases compared with the same week in 2014.

“This is a one week snapshot and it would be premature to make any assumptions from one point in time,” said an AAR spokesperson. “Even though intermodal traffic was down for the week ending Jan. 17 compared to the same week in 2014, it is still the second-highest January intermodal week in rail industry history. If anything, this is part of normal week-to-week fluctuations.”

In the meantime, the Surface Transportation Board reported this week that Class I railroad employment as in mid-December rose 4.93 percent to 170,841, from mid-December 2013.

Class I railroads added 96 positions since mid-November 2014.

Most of the gain in employment came in train and engine crews, which rose 8.62 percent measured against levels of a year ago.