Association of American Railroads logo

Weekly Rail Traffic for the week ending March 21, 2020

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) just reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 21, 2020.

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 459,966 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending March 21 were 224,048 carloads, down 5.4 percent compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 235,918 containers and trailers, down 11.4 percent compared to 2019.

John T. Gray headshot“Demand for rail service depends on the demand further down the chain for the products railroads haul and on the ability of firms they serve to produce what is demanded,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.  “Autos are a good example.  What with job uncertainty and either voluntary or enforced social distancing for many people, this isn’t a great time to visit new car showrooms, so the demand for autos is down.  Further, most automakers have suspended manufacturing operations for the time being.  As a result of both these factors, rail carloads of autos and auto parts fell considerably this past week.”

“It wouldn’t be surprising to see rail volumes of other categories soften in the weeks ahead as steps taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 continue to impact producers, both here and abroad, particularly those of consumer goods or intermediate products from which those goods are produced,” Gray added. “The good news is that the intermodal volumes of the railroads serving the West Coast ports that receive the bulk of imports from China appear to have plateaued over the last four weeks, indicating that we may have seen the worst of the COVID-19 impacts on the Asia trade.”

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. They were chemicals, up 3,760 carloads, to 34,471; miscellaneous carloads, up 858 carloads, to 9,747; and farm products excl. grain, and food, up 507 carloads, to 15,984. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 9,223 carloads, to 56,093; nonmetallic minerals, down 4,774 carloads, to 30,674; and metallic ores and metals, down 1,427 carloads, to 18,576.

For the first 12 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,773,207 carloads, down 6.1 percent from the same point last year; and 2,948,362 intermodal units, down 8.1 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 12 weeks of 2020 was 5,721,569 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.2 percent compared to last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending March 21, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 327,787 carloads, down 3.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 311,769 intermodal units, down 11.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 639,556 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.7 percent. North American rail volume for the first 12 weeks of 2020 was 7,863,533 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.5 percent compared with 2019.

Canadian railroads reported 83,954 carloads for the week, up 1.4 percent, and 61,041 intermodal units, down 14.1 percent compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 12 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported a cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,698,008 carloads, containers, and trailers, down 2 percent.
Mexican railroads reported 19,785 carloads for the week, down 5.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 14,810 intermodal units, down 1.3 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 12 weeks of 2020 was 443,956 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 3.5 percent from the same point last year.

Click here for the rail traffic charts.