WASHINGTON — Freight rail traffic in the United States was down 9.3 percent in July compared to the same month in 2019. However, officials with the Association of American Railroads, the group that maintains carload data, say that rail traffic is trending in the “right direction.”
Like nearly every facet of the economy, railroads have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns. American railroads originated more than 1 million carloads in July 2020, down 17.6 percent from July 2019. Intermodal traffic fared better with U.S. railroads moving 1.2 million containers and trailers in July 2020, down just 1.4 percent from the previous July.
“The old saying, ‘You have to play the hand you’re dealt’ applies to railroads,” says AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Rail traffic, like the overall economy, is generally trending in the right direction, but progress is slow; there’s a long way to go before it’s back to normal; and both week-to-week improvements and setbacks in individual commodities are to be expected. Coal and other energy-related rail commodities continue to struggle more than most, while intermodal is closer than any other rail traffic category to pre-pandemic levels.”
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 31 weeks of 2020 was 14,037,553 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 12.6 percent compared to last year.