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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: U.S. freight-rail traffic recovery accelerated in June


Freight-rail traffic trends in June reflected an accelerated recovery process that began in May, Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials said yesterday.

U.S. railroads originated 1,799,189 carloads and intermodal units last month, a 14.3 percent decrease compared with June 2019, according to AAR data. Carload traffic fell 22.4 percent to 794,256, while intermodal volume dipped 6.6 percent to 1,004,933 units.

Two of 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month logged gains: All other carloads rose 2.4 percent; and farm products, excluding grain, climbed 11.1 percent.

Commodities that posted declines last month included coal, down 34.1 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 27.1 percent; and motor vehicles and parts, down 30.3 percent.

"By the end of June, freight loadings had improved by about 60,000 carload and intermodal units weekly over where they had been in late April," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release. 

After reaching record lows in early May, coal finally stabilized at about 50,000 carloads per week by June's end, Gray said. 

"Additionally, the reopening of automotive plants that began in early June has regrown that business from as little as 2,000 weekly loads to over 13,000 by the end of the month," he said. "This also contributed to stabilization for loadings of products that support auto production such as metals, glass and plastics."

However, intermodal is leading the upward trend. Over the past two months, intermodal volume grew to match volumes last seen in early February, Gray said.

"While all of these results are encouraging, they will be much more robust if the current trend continues in the weeks following the July 4th holiday," he added.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first six months of 2020 tumbled 15.9 percent to 5,508,013 units compared with the same period a year ago, while intermodal units dropped 10.6 percent to 6,191,563.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first six months was 11,699,576 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.6 percent from last year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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