United States rail carload and intermodal volumes saw annual declines in July, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
July rail carloads—at 1,042,017—fell 17.6%, or 222,227 carloads, compared to July 2019. And AAR said that three of the carload commodities it tracks were up in July, with food products, up 475 carloads or 1.7%; farm products excl. grain, up 295 carloads or 8.3%; and lumber & wood products, up 258 carloads or 1.6%. Commodities that saw declines in July 2020 from July 2019 included: coal, down 110,225 carloads or 28.7%; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 29,547 carloads or 24.8%; and metallic ores, down 21,942 carloads or 63.7%.
When removing coal, AAR said that July carloads were off 112,112 carloads, or 12.7%, and when removing coal and grain, carloads were down 100,575 carloads, or 13.2%.
Intermodal containers and trailers—at 1,295,960—were off 1.4%, or 18,403 units, in July, and total rail carload and intermodal units, for July—at 2,337,977—decreased 9.3%, or 240,740 carloads and intermodal units annually.
On a year-to-date basis through July, AAR reported that U.S. rail carloads—at 6,550,030—fell 18.2%, or 1,266,725 carloads, and intermodal units—at 7,487,523—slipped 9.1%, or 751,100 units.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first seven months of 2020 was 6,550,030 carloads, down 16.2 percent, or 1,266,725 carloads, from the same period last year; and 7,487,523 intermodal units, down 9.1 percent, or 751,100 containers and trailers, from last year.
“The old saying, ‘You have to play the hand you’re dealt’ applies to railroads,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “Rail traffic, like the overall economy, is generally trending in the right direction, but progress is slow; there’s a long way to go before it’s back to normal; and both week-to-week improvements and setbacks in individual commodities are to be expected. Coal and other energy-related rail commodities continue to struggle more than most, while intermodal is closer than any other rail traffic category to pre-pandemic levels.”
For the week ending August 1, AAR reported that U.S. rail carloads—at 217,961—fell 18.3% annually, with intermodal units falling 1.8%, to 270,277.