United States rail carload and intermodal volumes, for the month of May were mixed, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Rail carloads—at 1,129,255—eked out a 0.8%, or 8,840 carloads, annual gain, said AAR. When excluding coal, carloads were up 14,229 carloads, or 1.8% annually, and when excluding coal and grain, carloads increased by 27,145, or 3.9%.
AAR said that nine of the 20 carload commodity categories it tracks saw annual gains, including: motor vehicles & parts, up 11,464 carloads or 17.0%; crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 10,207 carloads or 10.2%; and petroleum & petroleum products, up 3,968 carloads or 9.4%. Commodities posting annual declines included: grain, down 12,916 carloads or 12.2%; coal, down 5,389 carloads or 1.7%; and all other carloads, down 2,528 carloads or 9.8%.
Intermodal containers and trailers—at 1,190,553 containers and trailers—fell 11.1%, or 148,780 units, compared to May 2022.
“Roughly half of U.S. intermodal shipments are related to international trade, so what happens at ports is extremely important to railroads,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “U.S. port volumes, especially on the West Coast, have already been trending down for months and are a major reason why rail intermodal volumes have been on the decline in 2023.”
Through the first five months of 2023, U.S. rail carload volume—at 4,938,897—was up 0.7%, or 33,332 carloads, compared to the same period a year ago, and intermodal units—at 5,124,695—were down 10.9%, or 624,181 containers and trailers.
For the week ending June 3, AAR reported that U.S. rail carloads rose 0.4% annually, to 219,289, and intermodal containers and trailers fell 11.1%, to 220,312.