AAR has reported rail traffic for the week ending February 27, 2021, and the weather appears at least partly responsible for the poor report card. For the week, carload traffic was down 8.5% as compared to the same week last year, with year-to-date down 6.5%. This clearly shows the impact on the weekly volume of the weather. AAR has been reporting declines on a year-to-year basis for several months but this is more significant and contrary to the recent trends we have seen.

At the same time, certain sectors continue to show strength, including grain in particular. Weakness remains in the petroleum, nonmetallic minerals, and motor vehicles and parts for example. And, once again, notwithstanding the weather impacts, intermodal traffic continues to well outpace shipments year-over-year with an 11.6% gain for the week in comparison to 2020. That is particularly striking given the adverse impact weather had upon carload shipments.

With the weather behind us, we are looking ahead to hopefully see positive developments in rail traffic, both carloads and intermodal shipments during the remainder of 2021. And, especially looking to see the pandemic recede into the background of the news cycle and everyone’s thinking.

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