WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 6, 2021

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending October 2, 2021, as well as volumes for September 2021.

U.S. railroads originated 1,167,682 carloads in September 2021, up 4.3 percent, or 47,858 carloads, from September 2020. U.S. railroads also originated 1,328,527 containers and trailers in September 2021, down 6.7 percent, or 95,317 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in September 2021 were 2,496,209, down 1.9 percent, or 47,459 carloads and intermodal units from September 2020.

In September 2021, 15 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with September 2020. These included: coal, up 40,954 carloads or 13.7 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 11,107 carloads or 12.5 percent; and primary metal products, up 8,675 carloads or 22.4 percent. Commodities that saw declines in September 2021 from September 2020 included: motor vehicles & parts, down 22,486 carloads or 27.6 percent; grain, down 17,312 carloads or 14.7 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 1,616 carloads or 3.1 percent.

“Rail intermodal volume is clearly not what it has been and could be,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Keeping intermodal terminals functioning smoothly and at full capacity depends on consistent freight outflows to make room for new freight inflows. Unfortunately, due to limited availability of downstream truck and warehouse capacity, that’s not happening right now with predictable impacts on rail intermodal volume. There is no single solution to this problem but railroads are bringing intermodal yard capacity back online to increase storage availability as well as working with customers and truckers to accelerate container pickup among other efforts. At the same time, railroads continue to see improvements in carload business with a variety of industrial goods, including steel, paper, crushed stone and chemicals showing continued progress in September.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 6,904 carloads, or 0.8 percent, in September 2021 from September 2020. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 24,216 carloads, or 3.5 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first nine months of 2021 was 9,009,639 carloads, up 7.9 percent, or 658,222 carloads, from the same period last year; and 10,812,108 intermodal units, up 9.9 percent, or 976,362 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 39 weeks of 2021 was 19,821,747 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 9 percent compared to last year.

Week Ending October 2, 2021

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 515,849 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.5 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending October 2 were 241,910 carloads, up 4.2 percent compared with the same week in 2020, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 273,939 containers and trailers, down 4.4 percent compared to 2020.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. They included coal, up 6,468 carloads, to 65,187; nonmetallic minerals, up 2,652 carloads, to 33,081; and metallic ores and metals, up 2,326 carloads, to 23,999. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2020 included motor vehicles and parts, down 3,088 carloads, to 13,303; petroleum and petroleum products, down 610 carloads, to 9,827; and grain, down 534 carloads, to 26,007.

North American rail volume for the week ending October 2, 2021, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 340,442 carloads, up 2.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 356,688 intermodal units, down 6.3 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 697,130 carloads and intermodal units, down 2 percent. North American rail volume for the first 39 weeks of 2021 was 27,026,291 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.9 percent compared with 2020.

Canadian railroads reported 81,835 carloads for the week, up 1 percent, and 70,024 intermodal units, down 9.2 percent compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 39 weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,782,686 carloads, containers and trailers, up 5 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 16,697 carloads for the week, down 5.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 12,725 intermodal units, down 25.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 39 weeks of 2021 was 1,421,858 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 5.3 percent from the same point last year.


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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