United States rail carload and intermodal volumes, for the week ending January 9, were mixed, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Rail carloads—at 235,404—saw a 1.6% annual decrease, topping the week ending January 2, at 202,278, and the week ending December 26, at 185,029.
AAR officials said that four of the 10 carload commodity groups it tracks saw annual gains, including: grain, up 9,386 carloads, to 27,650; metallic ores and metals, up 2,524 carloads, to 23,600; and chemicals, up 2,458 carloads, to 36,195. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2020 included coal, down 10,088 carloads, to 60,780; nonmetallic minerals, down 4,640 carloads, to 25,395; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 3,144 carloads, to 11,167.
Intermodal containers and trailers, for the week ending January 9, saw a 10.4% annual gain, to 289,849 units, well ahead of the weeks ending January 2 and December 26, at 219,713 and 220,082, respectively.
AAR recently reported that United States rail carload and intermodal volumes saw annual declines in 2020.
Following a 4.9% annual decrease for carloads in 2019, to 12,992,404, 2020 carloads, which were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, fell 12.9%, or 1,705,963 carloads, to 11,482,059, from 2019 to 2020.
Intermodal containers and trailers fell 1.8%, or 255,634 units, to 13,675,417, from 2019 to 2020, even though volumes saw strong growth over the second half of the year. And total 2020 U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes—at 25,157,476 carloads and intermodal units, were off 7.2% annually.
“Before the pandemic even hit, railroads began 2020 on less-than-ideal footing because of weakness in the manufacturing sector and lower port activity caused by trade disputes,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “For several months earlier this year, railroads suffered near-record traffic declines, but they worked hard to keep the goods we all need moving. By the end of the year, rail traffic was close to pre-pandemic levels, sparked by 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. 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.”