U.S. rail volumes trended downward again for the week ending June 15, with weekly volumes falling over 5 percent and year-to-date volumes declining nearly 3 percent, according to the latest data from the Association of American Railroads.
U.S. rail operations originated 527,989 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.4 percent from the same week in 2018. Of that, U.S. carloads totaled 257,385, down 4.6 percent, while intermodal containers and trailers fell 6.2 percent to 270,604.
On a year-to-date basis, U.S. rail volumes fell 2.8 percent to 12.4 million carloads and intermodal units. Of that, U.S. rail operations originated 6 million carloads and 6.4 million intermodal containers and trailers. Both segments were also down 2.8 percent.
The decline in U.S. rail volumes comes as the manufacturing sector still faces weakened export demand and lackluster business investment prospects. But gains in the retail sector in May, including an increase in retail spending for the third consecutive month, suggest the possibility that some sectors of the U.S. economy could be stabilizing.
Meanwhile, flooding conditions in the Midwest continue to dampen rail volumes (see https://www.freightwaves.com/news/more-flooding-possible-barges-waiting-forecast-video for the latest update). The flooding has contributed to lower volumes for coal, which represents nearly one-third of weekly U.S. carload volume.
BNSF (NYSE: BRK) said on June 14 that portions of its network in Iowa and Missouri were flooded, with four subdivisions partially or fully out of service because of high water, track damage or other flood-related issues. The rail company said last week that it couldn’t provide an estimated date for when its Napier subdivision and three other subdivisions adjacent to the Mississippi River in Missouri would reopen.