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AAR: August Rail Carloads and Intermodal Down Compared to 2019


by Calculated Risk on 9/03/2021 02:11:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.

Intermodal is navigating many of the same
challenges that have plagued global supply chains for
months, such as shutdowns at ports and manufacturing
centers in Asia; port congestion; labor and capacity
shortages at docks, warehouses, and drayage firms;
container and chassis shortages; natural and man-made
disasters (e.g., wildfires, hurricanes, and ships getting
stuck in canals). Pressures are intensifying as retailers,
many of whom already have much lower inventories
than they’d like, are trying to stock up for the upcoming
holiday season. At this point, no one knows if things will
get worse before they get better, and if they do get
worse, how much worse they will get.
emphasis added

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the six week average of U.S. Carloads in 2019, 2020 and 2021:

Total originated carloads on U.S. railroads in
August 2021 were 934,762, up 4.1% (36,815 carloads) over
August 2020 and down 11.4% (120,262 carloads) from
August 2019. The 4.1% year-over-year gain in August
2021 was the smallest year-over-year gain since March
2021. Total carloads averaged 233,691 per week in
August 2021. Except for August 2020, that’s the lowest
weekly average for total carloads for an August in our
records that begin in 1988.

The second graph shows the six week average (not monthly) of U.S. intermodal in 2019, 2020 and 2021: (using intermodal or shipping containers):

U.S. intermodal originations, which
are not included in carloads, were 3.3% lower in August
2021 than August 2020 and 0.4% lower than August 2019.
That’s their first year-over-year decline in 13 months.
Intermodal originations averaged 271,336 containers and
trailers per week in August 2021, the third lowest of the
eight months so far in 2021. In the 21 years from 2000 to
2020, August was a top-three intermodal month 16
times. That’s obviously won’t happen this year.

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