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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: 'Heartening' signs in May rail traffic data


U.S. freight railroads moved 1,653,093 carloads and intermodal units during May, a 20.2 percent decrease compared with May 2019, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR).

The railroads logged 740,171 carloads, down 27.7 percent, and 912,922 intermodal containers and trailers, down 13 percent, from the same month last year, AAR officials said in a press release.

One of 20 carload commodity categories — farm products, excluding grain — posted gains compared with May 2019. That category rose 10.6 percent, 324 carloads.

Commodities that logged declines in May 2020 from the same month last year included coal, down 40.7 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 75 percent; and crushed stone, gravel and sand, down 19.4 percent.

Overall traffic levels during the month's final week were down from the week before, which would be expected for a week that includes a national holiday, said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray.

"However, it is somewhat heartening to note that 11 of the 20 carload categories, including several major commodity areas, improved their showing versus 2019 when comparing their current loading rates to those we have seen the last four weeks," Gray said. "Perhaps most notably, automobile loadings improved to about one-third the normal level as assembly plants began the intricate process of reopening. While this is still a long way from where we would like it to be, it is far better than the 10 percent of norm only two weeks ago."

Excluding coal, carloads were down 21.9 percent last month; excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 24.3 percent.

Year over year, total U.S. railroads' carloads for the first months of 2020 fell 14.7 percent to 4,713,757 units, while total intermodal containers and trailers declined 11.3 percent to 5,186,630 containers and trailers.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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