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U.S. freight railroads hauled 2,103,523 carloads and intermodal units in January, a 5.3% increase compared with January 2020's traffic level, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.
U.S. railroads moved 930,303 carloads last month, down 2.1%, and 1,173,220 containers and trailers, up 12.1%.
"We are encouraged by rail volumes in January," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release. "U.S. intermodal shipments and carloads of chemicals set new records; grain had its biggest year-over-year increase; total carloads were the highest they've been in a year; and carloads excluding coal actually grew year-over-year for the second straight month."
Last month, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month logged gains year over year. These included grain, up 40%; chemicals, up 4.4%; and metallic ores, up 28.7%. Commodities that posted decreases included coal, down 12.7%; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 18.9%; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 12.1%.
Excluding coal, carloads were up 2.3%. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 2.7%.
"To be sure, the economy remains under strain with a good deal of uncertainty, but we're cautiously optimistic about the future," said Gray. "Railroads are well prepared to support a strong recovery whenever it occurs."