Rail Traffic for October and the Week Ending October 31, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 4, 2020 – The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending October 31, 2020, as well as volumes for October 2020.

U.S. railroads originated 912,772 carloads in October 2020, down 6.6 percent, or 64,634 carloads, from October 2019. U.S. railroads also originated 1,169,874 containers and trailers in October 2020, up 10.0 percent, or 105,966 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in October 2020 were 2,082,646, up 2.0 percent, or 41,332 carloads and intermodal units from October 2019.

In October 2020, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with October 2019. These included: grain, up 21,557 carloads or 25.5 percent; iron & steel scrap, up 3,579 carloads or 29.1 percent; and waste & nonferrous scrap, up 1,527 carloads or 11.2 percent. Commodities that saw declines in October 2020 from October 2019 included: coal, down 56,343 carloads or 19.1 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 14,275 carloads or 16.0 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 10,199 carloads or 20.0 percent.

“Thanks largely to rising imports and inventory restocking in preparation for the holidays, October was the best month ever for U.S. rail intermodal, with volumes up by a third from April of this year. That’s a stunning increase in six months,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Meanwhile, U.S. rail carloads rose in October for 10 of the 20 carload categories we track, the most since the pandemic began.  Carloads of grain in October were their highest in 13 years, while carloads of motor vehicles and parts have recovered after falling close to 90% earlier this year.  Changes in energy markets continue to pressure carloads of coal, petroleum products, and frac sand and holding back total carloads.  Excluding those three categories, carloads in October were a few percentage points higher than last year.”

Excluding coal, carloads were down 8,291 carloads, or 1.2 percent, in October 2020 from October 2019. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 29,848 carloads, or 5.0 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 10 months of 2020 was 9,480,575 carloads, down 14.5 percent, or 1,608,065 carloads, from the same period last year; and 11,204,234 intermodal units, down 4.4 percent, or 517,668 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 44 weeks of 2020 was 20,684,809 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 9.3 percent compared to last year.

Week Ending October 31, 2020

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 520,778 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.1 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending October 31 were 227,437 carloads, down 7.3 percent compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 293,341 containers and trailers, up 10.8 percent compared to 2019.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. They were grain, up 5,205 carloads, to 27,002; farm products excl. grain, and food, up 635 carloads, to 16,580; and metallic ores and metals, up 212 carloads, to 20,686. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 included coal, down 13,893 carloads, to 58,585; nonmetallic minerals, down 4,057 carloads, to 29,244; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 2,505 carloads, to 10,202.

North American rail volume for the week ending October 31, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 323,590 carloads, down 6.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 389,896 intermodal units, up 10.8 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 713,486 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.1 percent. North American rail volume for the first 44 weeks of 2020 was 28,463,208 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.7 percent compared with 2019.

Canadian railroads reported 76,575 carloads for the week, down 6.3 percent, and 81,269 intermodal units, up 20.4 percent compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 44 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,267,116 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6.2 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 19,578 carloads for the week, down 1.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 15,286 intermodal units, down 22.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 44 weeks of 2020 was 1,511,283 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 10.9 percent from the same point last year.

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For more information contact: AAR Media Relations at [email protected]  or 202-639-2345.

About AAR: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers. AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. Learn more at www.aar.org.

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