U.S. Rail Traffic Down 8.1 Percent in October

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for October 2019 was 2,556,421 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.1 percent or 224,613 carloads and intermodal units compared with October 2018. 

In October 2019, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,224,477, a decrease of 8.4 percent, or 112,703 carloads, compared to October of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 5.2 percent, or 47,149 carloads, compared to October 2018. Excluding coal and grain, carloads decreased 5.1 percent, or 40,496 carloads, for the month.

Intermodal volume in October 2019 was down 7.8 percent, or 111,910 units. U.S. railroads originated 1,331,944 containers and trailers for the month.

In October 2019, four of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases compared with October 2018. Commodities showing the largest increases included stone, clay and glass products, up 2,028 carloads or 5.2 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products up 1,543 carloads, or 2.5 percent. Chemicals increased 0.4 percent or 603 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 65,554 carloads, or 15 percent, and motor vehicles and parts declined 8,833 carloads, or 10.3 percent. Crushed stone, sand and gravel decreased 8,121 carloads, or 6.8 percent.

“Sluggish growth abroad and trade developments are weighing on business investment, exports, and manufacturing,” said John T. Gray, AAR senior vice president policy and economics. “Unfortunately, those are precisely what drive much of the freight carried by U.S. railroads, and their weakness goes a long way in explaining why rail traffic is down right now.”

“Railroads are hopeful that policymakers here and abroad will take sensible actions aimed at accelerating growth and removing the uncertainty that’s constraining many economic sectors,” added Gray.

For the week ending November 2, 2019, a decrease of 8.8 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2018. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 510,012.