Friday, October 04, 2019

AAR: September Rail Carloads down 7.0% YoY, Intermodal Down 4.6% YoY

by Calculated Risk on 10/04/2019 04:56:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.

There’s still no relief in sight for U.S. rail traffic. Total originated U.S. rail carloads fell 7.0% in September 2019 from September 2018, their eighth straight year-over-year decline. In the third quarter, total carloads were down 5.4%; for the year through September, they were down 3.8%.

Intermodal was weak too — originations were down 4.6% in September, down 5.8% in the Q3 2019 (the biggest quarterly percentage decline since Q3 2009); and down 4.1% for the year to date.

Most economists would probably also agree that returning to some semblance of order on the international trade front is the single most important thing that would push the seesaw to the faster growth side. That would also help railroads, of course, because, as we discussed last month, the ongoing trade war and accompanying uncertainty has had the most direct impact on manufacturing and commodity related industries that are heavily served by railroads.
emphasis added
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the year-over-year changes in U.S. Carloads.
U.S. rail traffic continues to falter. Total carloads originated were 992,542 in September 2019, down 7.0%, or 74,172 carloads, from September 2018. It was the eighth straight monthly year-over-year decline and the second biggest percentage decline in those eight months. In the third quarter, total carloads were down 5.4%. For the first nine months of 2019, total U.S. carloads were down 3.8%, or 384,418 carloads, from 2018.
Rail TrafficThe second graph is the year-over-year change for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):
Rail intermodal remains weak too. Total originations in September were 1.06 million, down 5.9% (65,989 containers and trailers) from September 2018. Weekly average intermodal originations in September 2019 were 265,371, the lowest for September since 2016. Intermodal was down 5.8% in Q3 2019 from Q3 2018; that’s the biggest quarterly percentage decline for intermodal since Q3 2009. In 2019 through September, intermodal was down 4.1% (441,953 units) from last year, though year-to-date intermodal volume through September (10.39 million units) was the second highest ever (behind 2018).