Friday, May 08, 2020

AAR: April Rail Carloads down 25.2% YoY, Intermodal Down 17.2% YoY

by Calculated Risk on 5/08/2020 04:01:00 PM

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

Any industry that’s been around for 190 years has experienced a lot, but railroads have never faced something quite like what they’re facing now: huge swaths of their customer base shut down, with no clear idea when things will get better. It’s a good thing they’ve never experienced it before because it means bad things for rail traffic: total originated carloads on U.S. railroads fell 25.2% in April, their biggest year-over-year percentage decline since at least 1989 and probably for much longer. U.S. rail intermodal originations fell 17.2% in April 2020 from April 2019.
emphasis added
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the six week average of U.S. Carloads in 2018, 2019 and 2020:
Total originated carloads on U.S. railroads averaged 196,107 per week in April 2020, easily the lowest weekly average for any month since before January 1988, when our data began. In fact, the five months from December 2019 through April 2020 are the five lowest-volume months (measured by weekly average total carloads) since before 1988. In April 2020, total carloads were down 25.2%, or 329,693 carloads, from last April. That’s the biggest year-over-year monthly percentage decline since our data began.
Rail TrafficThe second graph shows the six week average of U.S. intermodal in 2018, 2019 and 2020: (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. intermodal originations in April 2020 were down 17.2%, or 227,165 containers and trailers, from last year. April was the 15th consecutive year-over-year decline for intermodal, but it and March 2020 (a 12.2% decline) had by far the biggest percentage declines in those 15 months. Intermodal is facing several challenges, including lower demand for most consumer goods; weaker port volumes; lots of surplus truck capacity; and lower diesel fuel prices, which helps railroads and trucks but helps trucks relatively more since they’re not as fuel efficient as railroads.