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(Source: Progressive Railroading 09/10/2020)

U.S. railroads logged an increase in freight-rail traffic during the week ending Sept. 5, with total volumes driven by a spike in intermodal units, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

The increase marked the first time combined U.S. freight-rail traffic increased since early 2020. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Sept. 5 was 509,637 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.6 percent compared with the same week last year, AAR officials said in a press release.

Although carload volume declined 6.9 percent to 222,298 units, intermodal volume soared 24.8 percent to 287,339 containers and trailers.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks weekly posted increases. They included grain, which  surged 5,630 carloads to 23,003; motor vehicles and parts, which climbed 1,729 carloads to 16,296; and miscellaneous carloads, which rose 1,306 to 10,038.

Commodity groups that posted decreases included coal, down 18,495 carloads to 60,842; nonmetallic minerals, down 3,159 carloads to 29,585; and metallic ores and metals, down 2,396 carloads to 17,634.

Individual Class Is reported the following carload activity during the week compared with a year ago: BNSF Railway Co., 84,440 carloads, down from 97,063; CN, 60,005 carloads, down from 62,628; Canadian Pacific, 33,358, up from 30,901; CSX, 63,284, down from 64,388; Kansas City Southern, 12,976, down from 14,287; Norfolk Southern Railway, 56,013, down from 59,343; and Union Pacific Railroad, 82,180, down from 86,114.

Canadian railroads also logged a traffic increase for the week. Carloads rose 0.7 percent to 78,580, while intermodal units increased 11.3 percent to 73,558.

Mexican railroads reported 19,050 carloads for the week, a 0.9 percent decrease. However, their intermodal volume rose 4 percent to 16,944 units.

The last time U.S. railroads reported positive combined carload and intermodal volume was in Week 5 of 2020, an AAR spokeswoman said in an email. 

The combined loadings data for Week 36 does not include Labor Day 2020, but the 2019 data for comparison does. That makes the year-over-year results look more positive than they likely would otherwise, the spokeswoman said.

For the first 36 weeks of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019:
• U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 16,568,371 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.3 percent;
• Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 5,011,733 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.2 percent; and
• Mexican railroads reported 1,242,306 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.5 percent.

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