By Railfan & Railroad Staff
WASHINGTON — More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck—derailing the economy unlike anything in modern history—railroads say freight traffic has recovered. In fact, in April 2021, railroads moved more intermodal containers than any other month in history, fueled by surging international trade and consumer spending, according to new data from the Association of American Railroads.
U.S. railroads originated 951,840 carloads in April 2021, up 23.7 percent, or 182,060 carloads, from April 2020. U.S. railroads also originated 1,173,952 containers and trailers in April 2021, up 33.8 percent, or 296,758 units, from the same month last year.
“A number of U.S. rail traffic categories have completely recovered ground lost during the pandemic or are very close to doing so,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “For example, April set a new all-time record for intermodal, driven by surging international trade and strong consumer spending. Meanwhile, carloads of grain, food, lumber, paper, scrap metal and several other categories were higher in April 2021 than they were in both April 2020 and in April 2019. Carloads of chemicals and steel in April 2021 were much higher than last year and just shy of April 2019 levels.”