U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes are mixed, for week ending April 22, reports AAR
United States rail carload and intermodal volumes, for the week ending April 22, were mixed, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Rail carloads—at 240,584—saw a 5.1% annual increase, rising for the second straight week, topping the week ending April 15, at 234,066, and the week ending April 8, at 225,669.
AAR reported that six of the 10 carload commodity groups it tracks saw annual gains, including: coal, up 10,985 carloads, to 68,879; motor vehicles and parts, up 1,396 carloads, to 14,643; and metallic ores and metals, up 812 carloads, to 23,062. Commodity posting annual declines included grain, down 1,034 carloads, to 22,013; forest products, down 886 carloads, to 8,875; and chemicals, down 505 carloads, to 34,298.
Intermodal containers and trailers—at 239,873—were down 10.8% annually, topping the weeks ending April 15 and April 8, at 234,131 and 225,667, respectively.
On a year-to-date basis, through the first 16 weeks of 2022, AAR reported that U.S. rail carloads—at 3,693,811—are up 0.5% annually, and intermodal units—at 3,723,234—are off 10.9%, for the same period.
North American rail volume for the week ending April 22, 2023, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 346,012 carloads, up 5.0% compared with the same week last year, and 320,991 intermodal units, down 10.3% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 667,003 carloads and intermodal units, down 3.0%. North American rail volume for the first 16 weeks of 2023 was 10,268,381 carloads and intermodal units, down 3.8% compared with 2022.
“The economy still has some uncertainty, with some economic indicators varied, and rail traffic reflects that,” said Ian Jefferies, AAR President and CEO. “There are some positives, with autos continuing to do well and up about 10% year-to-date. I recently read an article that said cars are moving off of lots at a quicker clip because there is finally some inventory returning to auto dealers. Hopefully, that is a sign it will continue, and I guess we will see how the consumer feels for the rest of the year when it comes to that.”
He also observed that some other commodities moved by rail are trudging along, with coal basically flat compared to a year ago, and grain is off a bit, with other agriculture-based products holding up well.
“It is kind of a mixed bag,” he said. “Intermodal is probably not where we want it to be. Volumes are off by about 10% compared to where we were last year at this time. But, at the same time, I don’t think that’s an overwhelming surprise when we look at the decrease in imports and port traffic that is going on right now. We will see how the rest of the year goes. There are people out there who think it might be a bit of a bumpy ride, but that the economy is going to do OK by the time it is all said and done. We’ll be there ready to play our part with our customers and serving communities.”