Sizable year-over-year gains for intermodal, coal and grain helped boost U.S. rail volumes last week.
Weekly U.S. rail traffic climbed 12.5% to 520,736 carloads and intermodal units for the week ending Saturday, according to the Association of American Railroads.
Of that, U.S. intermodal volumes jumped 22.4% to 290,052 containers and trailers, while U.S. carload volumes rose 2.1% to 230,684 carloads.
Notable gains for carloads came from grain, which rose 19.8% to 23,939 carloads, and coal, which climbed 15.8% to 64,102 carloads. Last week marked the second consecutive week that coal rose year-over-year.
Year-to-date, U.S. rail volumes are 2.7% higher, at 4.98 million carloads and intermodal units. A 9.9% increase in intermodal traffic has helped to offset a 4.6% decline in carloads.
The strength in U.S. intermodal volumes comes as the National Retail Federation (NRF) on Tuesday said retail sales in February gained considerably year-over-year amid increased vaccinations against COVID-19, reduced restrictions on businesses and the government stimulus.
NRF determined that retail sales rose by 7.1% on an unadjusted basis year-over-year. But between January and February, NRF calculated that retail sales slipped 3.4%. The sequential decrease was likely due to February’s severe winter storms that hit large swaths of the country.
In comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that February retail sales were up 6.3% year-over-year but down 3% from January.
The difference between NRF and the Census Bureau’s figures is that NRF figures exclude sales from automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.