It seems clear that U.S. railroads are facing a freight recession. Total originated U.S. rail carloads fell 4.6% in August 2019 from August 2018, their seventh straight year-over-year decline. The average decline over those seven months was 4.2%, a not-insignificant amount. Meanwhile, U.S. intermodal volume fell 5.4% in August, also the seventh straight monthly decline. … Why? The parts of the economy that generate much of the freight that railroads carry — manufacturing and goods trading — have weakened significantly over the past several months.
From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.