American Association of Railroads

U.S. Rail Traffic for July and the week ending July 31, 2021

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending July 31, 2021, as well as volumes for July 2021.

U.S. railroads originated 904,670 carloads in July 2021, up 6.6 percent, or 55,969 carloads, from July 2020. U.S. railroads also originated 1,066,169 containers and trailers in July 2021, up 1.5 percent, or 15,450 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in July 2021 were 1,970,839, up 3.8 percent, or 71,419 carloads and intermodal units from July 2020.

In July 2021, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with July 2020. These included: coal, up 31,619 carloads or 14.1 percent; metallic ores, up 14,151 carloads or 137.8 percent; and primary metal products, up 9,802 carloads or 36.4 percent. Commodities that saw declines in July 2021 from July 2020 included: motor vehicles & parts, down 12,309 carloads or 21.3 percent; grain, down 6,112 carloads or 7.3 percent; and grain mill products, down 1,862 carloads or 5 percent.

John T. Gray headshot

John T. Gray

“U.S. rail traffic in July 2021 was up over July 2020, but the percentage increase was significantly lower than in other recent months, both because of more difficult comparisons and because various external factors have led to a recent deceleration in rail volumes,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “For example, grain exports are down sharply, taking rail carloads of grain down with them; automakers are still hampered by semiconductor shortages, leading to sharply lower rail auto volumes; and worldwide supply chain slowdowns are impacting both rail customers and railroads themselves. While all of these should be manageable, temporary setbacks, their convergence has resulted in weaker rail volumes than basic domestic economic factors might otherwise imply.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 24,350 carloads, or 3.9 percent, in July 2021 from July 2020. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 30,462 carloads, or 5.6 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first seven months of 2021 was 6,907,195 carloads, up 9.1 percent, or 573,549 carloads, from the same period last year; and 8,398,236 intermodal units, up 15.2 percent, or 1,109,282 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 30 weeks of 2021 was 15,305,431 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 12.4 percent compared to last year.

Week Ending July 31, 2021

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 502,540 carloads and intermodal units, up 3 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending July 31 were 228,975 carloads, up 5.2 percent compared with the same week in 2020, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 273,565 containers and trailers, up 1.2 percent compared to 2020.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included metallic ores and metals, up 8,183 carloads, to 24,684; coal, up 3,576 carloads, to 62,965; and nonmetallic minerals, up 2,792 carloads, to 32,356. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2020 were motor vehicles and parts, down 3,638 carloads, to 12,372; grain, down 2,934 carloads, to 18,231; and farm products excl. grain, and food, down 660 carloads, to 14,928.

North American rail volume for the week ending July 31, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 324,794 carloads, up 5.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 359,421 intermodal units, up 1.9 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 684,215 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.7 percent. North American rail volume for the first 30 weeks of 2021 was 20,864,770 carloads and intermodal units, up 10.9 percent compared with 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 75,316 carloads for the week, up 4.1 percent, and 69,949 intermodal units, up 2.9 percent compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 30 weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported a cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,463,379 carloads, containers, and trailers, up 7.3 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 20,503 carloads for the week, up 20.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 15,907 intermodal units, up 9.9 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 30 weeks of 2021 was 1,095,960 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6.7 percent from the same point last year.