U.S. Rail Traffic Still Behind 2022 Levels – Railway Age

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Written by

Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

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For the week ending March 25, 2023, U.S. rail traffic fell 7.5% from the prior-year period, pulled down by both carloads (dipping 0.2%) and intermodal volume (declining 13.9%), according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Results were similar for the weeks ending March 18, March 11 and March 4. However, carloads saw a slight uptick, while intermodal remained down, during the weeks ending Feb. 25 and Feb. 11.

AAR on March 29 reported that Class I railroads hauled a total of 469,958 carloads and intermodal units for week 12 (ending March 25, 2023), comprising 236,526 carloads and 233,432 containers and trailers.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase for the week ending March 25, 2023, compared with the same week in 2022. They included petroleum and petroleum products, up 1,889 carloads, to 10,524; metallic ores and metals, up 1,321 carloads, to 21,807; and farm products excluding grain, and food, up 986 carloads, to 17,668. Commodity groups that posted decreases included grain, down 2,650 carloads, to 19,889; coal, down 1,737 carloads, to 68,248; and chemicals, down 1,200 carloads, to 33,050.

For the first 12 weeks of 2023, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,760,079 carloads, down 0.3% from prior-year period; and 2,789,546 intermodal units, down 10.0% from 2022. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 12 weeks of 2023 came in at 5,549,625 carloads and intermodal units, a 5.4% drop-off from last year.  

North American rail volume for the week ending March 25, 2023, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 342,431 carloads, increasing 2.7% from the same point last year, and 309,347 intermodal units, decreasing 11.9% from last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 651,778 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.8%. North American rail volume for the first 12 weeks of 2023 reached 7,665,257 carloads and intermodal units, a 3.4% fall-off compared with 2022.

Canadian railroads reported 83,120 carloads for the week ending March 25, 2023, rising 9.6%, and 62,661 intermodal units, decreasing 4.2% vs. 2022. For the first 12 weeks of 2023, they reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,673,092 carloads, containers and trailers, up 2.8%.

Mexican railroads reported 22,785 carloads for the week ending March 25, 2023, an 11.0% gain over the same week last year, and 13,254 intermodal units, a 9.2% decline. Their cumulative volume for the first 12 weeks of the year came in at 442,540 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 0.8% from the same point in 2022.

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