The Association of American Railroads provides data on a regular basis regarding carloads and intermodal loading. Typically, the data is either for a “weekending” or “month ending” period, always compared to the same period for the prior year. For this week’s update we will use AAR’s data to provide a slightly different side-by-side data presentation; comparing the week ending February 6, 2021, to the week ending June 5, 2021. Hopefully, this will provide a little insight into what is going on this year, looking at the four-month overall change, as compared to the most recent week to last year’s pandemic data. Here is our table, using AAR’s data for those two periods:
|Feb 6 `21||June 5 `21||% Change|
|Farm products excl Grain & Food||16,801||15,395||-8.37%|
|Metallic Ores and Metals||19,390||23,332||20.33%|
|Motor Vehicles and Parts||15,050||11,133||-26.03%|
|Petroleum & Petroleum Products||11,453||10,085||-11.94%|
|Total Intermodal Units||269,422||261,647||-2.89%|
First, we were struck by the relative flatness of the data overall, given the four-month period. However, there are big swings in several material categories;
- There is a steady increase in coal shipments; we did not expect to see that;
- The decline in motor vehicles and parts is significant, and likely due to the chip shortage if not partly, perhaps mostly;
- The decline in intermodal shipments, while small, is interesting given how strong intermodal has been for many months; and,
- It is good to see strength in metallic ores and metals and nonmetallic minerals, hopefully showing increased overall industrial activity during the period.
So there it is; a slightly different look at AAR’s weekly data, showing how things changed over the past four months. There certainly is evidence of seasonal changes in the data but there is more going on that may be interesting to watch going forward.
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