The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 30, 2024, as well as volumes for March 2024.

U.S. railroads originated 866,865 carloads in March 2024, down 3.5 percent, or 31,101 carloads, from March 2023. U.S. railroads also originated 1,022,321 containers and trailers in March 2024, up 11.7 percent, or 106,903 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in March 2024 were 1,889,186, up 4.2 percent, or 75,802 carloads and intermodal units from March 2023.

In March 2024, 11 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with March 2023. These included: grain, up 8,475 carloads or 11.4 percent; chemicals, up 7,248 carloads or 5.7 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, up 5,249 carloads or 15.0 percent. Commodities that saw declines in March 2024 from March 2023 included: coal, down 49,315 carloads or 18.6 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, down 5,434 carloads or 6.7 percent; and metallic ores, down 1,573 carloads or 8.9 percent.

"Large swaths of rail traffic reflect broader economic changes,” stated Dr. Rand Ghayad, Chief Economist at the Association of American Railroads. “The recent announcement by the Institute for Supply Management that its manufacturing sentiment index turned positive in March aligns with rail carloads, excluding coal, showing a healthy 2.9% growth. This growth was driven largely by chemicals, petroleum products, and autos, critical components of our economy. Conversely, coal volumes continue to decline due to ongoing shifts in electricity generation markets. Intermodal was again a bright spot in March, reflecting stable consumer spending, increasing port activity, and a reduction in inventory destocking."

Excluding coal, carloads were up 18,214 carloads, or 2.9 percent, in March 2024 from March 2023. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 9,739 carloads, or 1.7 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first three months of 2024 was 2,773,827 carloads, down 4.2 percent, or 122,088 carloads, from the same period last year; and 3,268,647 intermodal units, up 9.1 percent, or 272,238 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2024 was 6,042,474 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2.5 percent compared to last year.

Week Ending March 30, 2024

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 472,651 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.2 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending March 30 were 218,733 carloads, down 3.2 percent compared with the same week in 2023, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 253,918 containers and trailers, up 9.3 percent compared to 2023.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2023. They included grain, up 1,849 carloads, to 20,934; motor vehicles and parts, up 1,387 carloads, to 16,260; and chemicals, up 1,319 carloads, to 33,508. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2023 were coal, down 13,750 carloads, to 51,603; and metallic ores and metals, down 1,279 carloads, to 21,129.

North American rail volume for the week ending March 30, 2024, on 10 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 328,007 carloads, down 4.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 335,908 intermodal units, up 8.2 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 663,915 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.8 percent. North American rail volume for the first 13 weeks of 2024 was 8,462,498 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.8 percent compared with 2023.

Canadian railroads reported 92,728 carloads for the week, down 5.0 percent, and 71,047 intermodal units, up 8.0 percent compared with the same week in 2023. For the first 13 weeks of 2024, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,050,973 carloads, containers and trailers, down 0.8 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 16,546 carloads for the week, down 10.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,943 intermodal units, down 11.0 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 13 weeks of 2024 was 369,051 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 5.1 percent from the same point last year.