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AAR: September Rail Carloads and Intermodal Down Compared to 2019

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by Calculated Risk on 10/08/2021 04:19:00 PM

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

Rail traffic in September 2021 was a mix of good and could-be-better, reflecting continuing
broad supply chain issues and an economy that doesn’t appear sure where it’s going.

U.S. intermodal volume in September 2021 was down 6.7% from last year and down 0.1% from
September 2019. The smooth functioning of intermodal terminals depends on consistent freight
outflows to make room for new freight inflows. Unfortunately, that’s not happening right now because
of supply chain capacity constraints, with predicable impacts on intermodal. U.S. intermodal in 2021
through September was the second most ever, fractionally behind the first nine months of 2018.

Total U.S. carloads in September were up 4.3% over last year, their seventh straight monthly gain
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:

U.S. railroads originated 1.17 million total
carloads in September 2021, up 4.3% (47,858 carloads)
over September 2020 but down 5.8% (71,773 carloads)
from September 2019. Total carloads averaged 233,536
per week in September 2021. That’s more than in
September 2020, but otherwise it’s the lowest weekly
average for September in our data that go back to 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. railroads originated 1.33 million intermodal
containers and trailers in September 2021, down 6.7%
from September 2020 and down 0.1% from September
2019. The 6.7% decline in September follows a 3.3%
decline in August, which in turn followed a year of
monthly intermodal gains. Intermodal volume averaged
265,705 containers and trailers per week in September
2021, the fewest since February 2021 (when a freakishly
severe winter storm in Texas and surrounding states
decimated rail traffic) and, before that, since July 2020.

2nd Look at Local Housing Markets in September: Memphis, Nashville, North Texas (Dallas), Northwest (Seattle), Sacramento and Santa Clara (San Jose)

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