During this past week, AAR reported freight rail traffic for December and for the week ending January 1st. For the month of December, total carloads were up by 3.1% as compared to the same month in 2020. However, total intermodal units were down 8.2%, as compared to 2020. Declining categories of shipments include grain (down 9.9%), motor vehicles & parts (down 12.6%) and petroleum & petroleum products (down 10%). For the entire of 2021, total carloads were up 6.6%, however it is important to recognize that 2020 was not a great year for the industry in North America.
For the week ending January 1st, total carloads were up 1.7% as compared to the same week in 2020. However, intermodal traffic was down 13.7% compared to the same week last year. This is particularly disappointing. Other recent data suggested this category of rail traffic might be improving have now been shown to be false indicators. Surprisingly, shipments of motor vehicles and parts increased 4.1%, contrary to recent downward trends. Hopefully, that continues. Declines were noted in grain, petroleum and petroleum products, and “other”.
Overall, not a terrible report however, given the troubles last year one would have preferred much more positive news. Let’s hope 2022 brings that relief.