U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes see annual declines, reviews AAR


United States rail carload and intermodal volumes, for the month of November, saw annual declines, according to data issued this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Rail carloads—at 1,162,736—fell 0.9%, or 10,437 carloads, annually, reported AAR, with eight of the 20 carload categories it tracks seeing annual gains, including: crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 8,726 carloads or 9.2 percent; motor vehicles & parts, up 5,372 carloads or 8.3 percent; and all other carloads, up 2,579 carloads or 10 percent. Commodities with annual declines included: chemicals, down 17,608 carloads or 10.3 percent; grain, down 3,757 carloads or 3 percent; and pulp & paper products, down 1,993 carloads or 7.2 percent.

AAR said that when excluding coal, carloads were down 12,153 carloads, or 1.4%, annually and when excluding coal and grain, carloads fell 8,396 carloads, or 1.2%.

Intermodal containers and trailers—at 1,230,291 units—were off 5.4%, or 70,107 units, annually.

“Thanksgiving week is one of the lowest volume weeks of the year for rail traffic, which means November rail volumes frequently do not clearly demonstrate underlying sequential trends,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “As has been the case for months, some sectors continue to show strength while others face headwinds. For example, relatively slow lumber carloads are consistent with the weak market for new home construction. Conversely, rail hauled motor vehicles and vehicle parts volumes have been rising as automakers have increased output thanks to greater parts availability.”

Through the first 11 months of 2022, AAR said that U.S. rail carloads—at 11,134,112—were essentially flat, up only 4,475 carloads annually. And intermodal units—at 12,552,267—fell 4.8%, or 637,473 units.

For the week ending December 3, AAR reported that U.S. rail carloads, at 241,307, were off 5.4% annually, and intermodal units, at 254,165, dropped 6.7%.

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