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AAR: U.S. rail intermodal had 'best month ever' in October


U.S. railroads logged a 2% increase in combined carload and intermodal traffic during October compared with the same month a year ago, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

Although carload volume declined 6.6% to 912,722 units during the month compared with October 2019, intermodal volume climbed 10% to 1,169,874 containers and trailers. Traffic for the month totaled 2,082,646 carloads, containers and trailers.

"Thanks largely to rising imports and inventory restocking in preparation for the holidays, October was the best month ever for U.S. rail intermodal, with volumes up by a third from April of this year. That's a stunning increase in six months," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release.

Meanwhile, U.S. rail carloads in October rose in 10 of the 20 carload categories that AAR tracks on a monthly basis — the most since the pandemic began. Also last month, the grain category logged its highest carload increase in 13 years, while the motor vehicles and parts carload category recovered after falling close to 90 percent earlier this year, Gray noted.

Changes in energy markets continue to pressure carloads of coal, petroleum products, and frac sand and hold back total carloads, Gray noted.

"Excluding those three categories, carloads in October were a few percentage points higher than last year," he said.

Excluding coal, carloads declined 1.2% last month. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 5%.

For the first 10 months of 2020, U.S. carload traffic totaled 9,480,575 units, down 14.5% compared with the same period a year ago. Intermodal volume of 11,204,234 containers and trailers dropped 4.4%.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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