U.S. rail volumes tumbled 6.7 percent for the week ending May 25 as slumping intermodal volumes dragged total volumes lower.
U.S rail operations originated 427,966 carloads and intermodal units last week, according to the Association of American Railroads. Of that, U.S. carloads totaled 259,953, a 5 percent drop from the same week in 2018, while intermodal containers and trailers fell 8.3 percent to 268,103 units.
Meanwhile, year-to-date declines were more tempered. Total U.S. volumes fell 2.3 percent to 10.9 million carloads and intermodal units. Of that, U.S. carloads were down 2.3 percent to 5.3 million carloads, while intermodal units were 2.2 percent lower, at 5.6 million containers and trailers.
In contrast, Canadian rail volumes rose again on both a weekly and year-to-date basis. Canadian rail operations originated 150,064 carloads and intermodal units for week ending May 25, which is a 0.4 percent increase from the same week in 2018, while year-to-date volumes totaled 3.1 million carloads and intermodal units, a 2.2 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
Canadian rail volumes represented 21 percent of North American rail volumes on both a weekly basis and year-to-date basis.
As the transportation industry debates whether fewer freight movements are indicative of a slowdown in the U.S. economy, softness in the housing and manufacturing sectors could be contributing to lower U.S. rail volumes year-to-date.
U.S. manufacturing indicators are mixed, but the uncertainty of U.S.-China trade relations could induce production declines in the months ahead. Meanwhile, year-to-date U.S. housing starts for single family units are down compared with 2018, which means that U.S. carloads for forest products might not see any volume upticks anytime soon. Forest products carloads are down 4.4 percent on a weekly basis and 1.3 percent on a year-to-date basis, to 10,122 carloads and 209,981 carloads, respectively.