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Friday, October 08, 2021

AAR: September Rail Carloads and Intermodal Down Compared to 2019

by Calculated Risk on 10/08/2021 04:19:00 PM

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

Rail traffic in September 2021 was a mix of good and could-be-better, reflecting continuing broad supply chain issues and an economy that doesn’t appear sure where it’s going.

U.S. intermodal volume in September 2021 was down 6.7% from last year and down 0.1% from September 2019. The smooth functioning of intermodal terminals depends on consistent freight outflows to make room for new freight inflows. Unfortunately, that’s not happening right now because of supply chain capacity constraints, with predicable impacts on intermodal. U.S. intermodal in 2021 through September was the second most ever, fractionally behind the first nine months of 2018.

Total U.S. carloads in September were up 4.3% over last year, their seventh straight monthly gain
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 2019, 2020 and 2021:
U.S. railroads originated 1.17 million total carloads in September 2021, up 4.3% (47,858 carloads) over September 2020 but down 5.8% (71,773 carloads) from September 2019. Total carloads averaged 233,536 per week in September 2021. That’s more than in September 2020, but otherwise it’s the lowest weekly average for September in our data that go back to 1988.
Rail TrafficThe second graph shows the six week average (not monthly) of U.S. intermodal in 2019, 2020 and 2021: (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. railroads originated 1.33 million intermodal containers and trailers in September 2021, down 6.7% from September 2020 and down 0.1% from September 2019. The 6.7% decline in September follows a 3.3% decline in August, which in turn followed a year of monthly intermodal gains. Intermodal volume averaged 265,705 containers and trailers per week in September 2021, the fewest since February 2021 (when a freakishly severe winter storm in Texas and surrounding states decimated rail traffic) and, before that, since July 2020.