A bit of very good news.
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 September 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 five weeks ending August 1st:
|Major US Railroads|
|Commodity||Typical Car Type (s)||July 2020||July 2019||% Change|
|Farm Products ex. Grain||Covered Hopper, Gondola||3,842||3,547||8.32%|
|Grain Mill Products||Covered Hopper||46,267||46,416||-0.32%|
|Food Products||Boxcar, Tankcar, other||28,249||27,774||1.71%|
|Chemicals||Boxcar, Tankcar, other||150,293||158,770||-5.34%|
|Petroleum & Petroleum Products||Tankcar||51,276||62,770||-18.31%|
|Primary Forest Products||Flatcar, Gondola||4,893||5,677||-13.81%|
|Lumber & Wood Products||Flatcar||16,062||15,804||1.63%|
|Pulp & Paper Products||Boxcar||24,366||26,706||-8.76%|
|Metallic Ores||Open top Hopper, Gondola||12,519||34,461||-63.67%|
|Coke||Open top Hopper||14,347||19,479||-26.35%|
|Primary Metal Products||Gondola, Flatcar, Boxcars||32,872||44,518||-26.16%|
|Iron & Steel Scrap||Gondola||15,623||15,986||-2.27%|
|Motor Vehicles & Parts||Autorack, Boxcar, Flatcar||69,973||70,242||-0.38%|
|Crushed Stone, Sand & Gravel||Open top Hopper, Gondola||89,755||119,302||-24.77%|
|Nonmetallic Minerals||Open top Hopper, Gondola||18,934||21,378||-11.43%|
|Stone, Clay & Glass Products||Covered Hopper, Open top Hopper, etc.||39,770||42,137||-5.62%|
|Waste & Nonferrous Scrap||Gondola||17,470||17,617||-0.83%|
|All other carloads||n/a||27,342||31,844||-14.14%|
|Total US Carloads||1,042,017||1,264,354||-17.59%|
|Combined US & Canadian Carloads||1,396,293||1,672,345||-16.51%|
This pattern is very comparable to what we have seen in recent reports. However, The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has also just reported US rail traffic for the period ending September 5. In that report, they indicate that total carloads for the week were down only 6.9% compared to the same week last year. So, while July was pretty bad for the railroads and industries they serve, it seems clearly things are improving. This is good news for sure.
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