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U.S. freight-rail volumes in second-quarter 2021 indicate the economy is in "much better shape" but still has room to grow, Association of American Railroads (AAR) Senior Vice President John Gray announced yesterday.
"In the second quarter, total U.S. carloads were the highest since the fourth quarter of 2019; carloads excluding coal were the highest since the third quarter of 2019; and intermodal and chemical volumes were both the highest for any quarter in history," Gray said in a press release.
Carloads of steel-related commodities during the quarter were also "relatively strong," reflecting higher demand as the industrial economy continues to recover, he said.
U.S. carload traffic for the first six months of 2021 totaled 6,002,525 units, up 9.4%, while intermodal traffic totaled 7,332,067 units, up 17.5% compared with the same period last year, according to AAR data.
In June, U.S. railroads originated 1,175,232 carloads, a 19.1% increase compared with June 2020, and 1,386,745 containers and trailers, a 10.9% increase.
Nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month posted carload gains in June. They included coal, up 33.5%; chemicals, up 16%; and metallic ores, up 164.6%.
Farm products excluding grain — which declined 10.6% — was the only category to log a decrease.