Breaking Stories

AAR: October Rail Carloads Down Compared to 2019

by Calculated Risk on 11/05/2021 03:21:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.

U.S. rail volumes continue to be impacted by supply chain issues and an economy that isn’t yet
what it could be.

Total U.S. carloads rose 3.8% in October 2021 over October 2020 as year-over-year gains in coal,
chemicals, and crushed stone and sand, among others, exceeded declines in motor vehicles, grain, and
petroleum products. October was the eighth straight month in which total carloads were higher than
the same month in 2020, but the 3.8% gain in October was the lowest gain in those eight months. …

Supply chain problems (especially shortages of dray trucks, drivers, and warehouse space) kept
U.S. intermodal volume down in October — it fell 7.9% from October 2020, its third straight year-over-year decline.
emphasis added

Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the six week average of U.S. Carloads in 2019, 2020 and 2021:

Total U.S. carload traffic has risen slightly but
perceptibly over the past two months. At the end of
October, the 6-week moving average for total carloads
originated was 237,999. That’s the most since mid-June. … Total carloads in
October 2021 were down 3.1% from October 2019
. In
each month so far in 2021, total carloads in 2021 have
been below the comparable month in 2019.

Rail TrafficThe second graph shows the six week average (not monthly) of U.S. intermodal in 2019, 2020 and 2021: (using intermodal or shipping containers):

[I]ntermodal volumes continue to be driven down by supply chain problems — especially
shortages of dray trucks, drivers, and warehouse space — that are preventing rail customers from
clearing their freight from rail terminals as quickly as they and railroads would like. Intermodal in October
2021 was down 7.9% from October 2020, its third straight year-over-year decline. October 202o was at
the time the best intermodal month ever.

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