WASHINGTON — While comparisons with 2020 are skewed because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Association of American Railroad statistics for March 2021 show that “rail traffic has clearly rebounded from last year’s depths,” an AAR official says.
U.S. numbers for March 2021 show carloads up 4.1% and intermodal trailer and containers up 24% over the same month in 2020, with the total of 2.59 million carloads and intermodal units representing a 14.2% increase. Eleven of 20 carload categories saw traffic increases. “Looking ahead, rail volumes are highly correlated with manufacturing output, so recent signs of strength in manufacturing are good signs for railroads too,” AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray says. Year-to-date totals for the first three months of 2021 show carloads down 2.6% and intermodal volume up 13.2% from 2020 figures, for a total increase of 5.6%.
Illustrating the impact the pandemic had on 2020 traffic, total rail volume for the week ending April 3, 2021, was 515,562 carloads and intermodal units, up 20% over the same week a year earlier. That includes 229,814 carloads, up 8.8%, and 285,748 containers and trailers, up 31%. Six of 10 specific carload groups showed increases.
Compared to the previous week in 2021, the figures show slight decreases. Total traffic for the week ending March 27, 2021, was 521,731 total units, 232,561 carloads, and 289,170 intermodal units.
North American figures for the week ending April 3, for 12 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads, include 337,683 carloads, up 4.8% over the same week in 2020; 380,050 intermodal units, up 23.8%, and 717,733 total units, up 14.1%. For Canada, numbers are 83,857 carloads, up 4.9%, and 74,756 intermodal units, an increase of 22.2%.