We have been monitoring and talking about the impact of the pandemic on rail carloads over the past few months. Clearly things are getting better, however gradual the improvement remains. For the week ending August 15, the Association of American Railroads reports total carloads were down 15.9% compared to the same week last year. If you remember, for the month of May they reported a decline of over 27%, so this is a tremendous improvement. The two-week-prior report was 17.8% down, so this is clearly a steady improvement that shows that, overall, the economy is improving. However, the total numbers can be misleading with respect to some sectors of the economy. We will report more on that when the next full-month data is out.
For some time now, many industry participants say that businesses have been slow to make decisions. While that is always true this time of year, it remains the case that shippers report it is hard to get supply commitments and those we are in contact with are very frustrated with the slow pace by which industries are making railcar commitments; buy or lease. This clearly shows continuing concern about future business conditions. And now, we are facing the national election at a time of unprecedented divide. This can’t help the railcar industry in the near term and we can’t wait until later this year when folks are more comfortable making decisions.
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