From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.
Numerous U.S. rail traffic categories have completely recovered the ground lost during the pandemic or are very close to doing so.
For example, April saw a new all-time record for U.S. intermodal shipments, driven by surging international trade and strong consumer spending. The weekly average for intermodal for April was 293,488 containers and trailers, breaking the record of 293,305 set in January 2021. …
Meanwhile, U.S. carloads of grain, food, lumber, paper, scrap metal, and several other categories were higher in April 2021 than they were in both April 2020 and in April 2019. Carloads of chemicals and steel in April 2021 were much higher than April 2020 levels and just shy of April 2019 levels. In April 2021, 17 of the 20 carload categories the AAR tracks were higher than in April 2020; nine carload categories were higher than in April 2019.
This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the six week average of U.S. Carloads in 2019, 2020 and 2021:
U.S. railroads originated 951,840 total carloads in April 2021, up 23.7%, or 182,060 carloads, over April 2020 and down 10.1% from April 2019. Total carloads averaged 237,960 per week in April 2021, the most since November 2019. For the first four months of 2021, total carloads were up 2.8% over last year.
U.S. railroads originated 1.17 million intermodal containers and trailers in April 2021, an average of 293.488 units per week. That’s up 33.8% over April 2020, up 10.4% over April 2019, and the biggest weekly average for intermodal for any month in history (breaking the record of 293,305 set in January 2021).