Following is a monthly update on United States (rail freight traffic by sector (with Canadian totals), with a focus on carloads. The data in the table is from the December issue of Railway Age, and we have added a column that shows typical car types for ease of reference. Each month, when this data is published, the report is for the second-previous month. Here is the current information reported, which covers in this case the four weeks ending October 31st:

Here are the details for the most recent report:

Major US Railroads
Commodity Typical Car Type (s) October2020 October2019 % Change
Grain Covered Hopper 106,027 84,470 25.52%
Farm Products ex. Grain Covered Hopper, Gondola 3,851 3,401 13.23%
Grain Mill Products Covered Hopper 37,083 35,811 3.55%
Food Products Boxcar, Tankcar, other 24,936 24,843 0.37%
Chemicals Boxcar, Tankcar, other 122,235 124,479 -1.80%
Petroleum & Petroleum Products Tankcar 40,923 51,122 -19.95%
Coal Gondola 238,329 294,672 -19.12%
Primary Forest Products Flatcar, Gondola 4,136 4,991 -17.13%
Lumber & Wood Products Flatcar 12,907 12,489 3.35%
Pulp & Paper Products Boxcar 20,818 20,692 0.61%
Metallic Ores Open top Hopper, Gondola 20,388 24,060 -15.26%
Coke Open top Hopper 10,538 13,164 -19.95%
Primary Metal Products Gondola, Flatcar, Boxcars 30,513 31,487 -3.09%
Iron & Steel Scrap Gondola 15,899 12,320 29.05%
Motor Vehicles & Parts Autorack, Boxcar, Flatcar 62,013 61,424 0.96%
Crushed Stone, Sand & Gravel Open top Hopper, Gondola 74,933 89,208 -16.00%
Nonmetallic Minerals Open top Hopper, Gondola 14,077 16,957 -16.98%
Stone, Clay & Glass Products Covered Hopper, Open top Hopper, etc. 32,843 33,090 -0.75%
Waste & Nonferrous Scrap Gondola 15,215 13,688 11.16%
All other carloads n/a 25,108 25,038 0.28%
Total US Carloads 912,772 977,406 -6.61%
Canadian Carloads 316,595 320,722 -1.29%
Combined US & Canadian Carloads 1,229,367 1,298,128 -5.30%

Once again, this data allows one to examine the state of the railroad traffic, and therefore to a large extent, the changes that are taking place in American industry. As has been the case for many months, energy industry traffic is again severely impacted by changes in the economy. While there are many sectors that have seen growth, some fairly strong, overall carloads are still down by almost 7 percent. And, mirroring recent trends, Canadian traffic is down overall, but not as badly as US traffic.

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