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Although U.S. rail traffic declined 5.8 percent in August compared with the same month a year ago, total intermodal volume rose 3 percent to 1,122,954 containers and trailers, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.
U.S. railroads logged 898,227 carloads last month, down 14.9 percent from August 2019, while total combined volume fell to 2,021,181 carloads and intermodal units. Still, the monthly U.S. intermodal volume gain was a highlight in AAR's August traffic report.
"For U.S. railroads, August 2020 was the best month in terms of intermodal loadings since October 2018, and the fifth best intermodal month ever," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release. "Much of what's inside the trailers and containers on an intermodal train ends up on the shelves of stores, or finds its way to consumers' doors via e-commerce merchants."
Meanwhile, only two of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month posted gains in August: grain, up 5.6 percent, and farm products excluding grain, up 5 percent.
Commodities that logged carload decreases included coal, down 25.8 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 25 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 14.3 percent.
For the first eight months of 2020, U.S. carload traffic totaled 7,448,257 units, down 16 percent, while intermodal volume totaled 8,610,477 units, down 7.7 percent compared with the same 2019 period.
"Despite the pandemic and the associated economic dislocations, an enormous amount of freight continues to move on railroads and other transportation modes," Gray said.