There’s still no relief in sight for U.S. rail traffic. Total originated U.S. rail carloads fell 7.0% in September 2019 from September 2018, their eighth straight year-over-year decline. In the third quarter, total carloads were down 5.4%; for the year through September, they were down 3.8%.
Intermodal was weak too — originations were down 4.6% in September, down 5.8% in the Q3 2019 (the biggest quarterly percentage decline since Q3 2009); and down 4.1% for the year to date.
Most economists would probably also agree that returning to some semblance of order on the international trade front is the single most important thing that would push the seesaw to the faster growth side. That would also help railroads, of course, because, as we discussed last month, the ongoing trade war and accompanying uncertainty has had the most direct impact on manufacturing and commodity related industries that are heavily served by railroads.
From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.