2019 was a challenging year for U.S. rail traffic. Total carloads fell 4.9% (668,075 carloads) and intermodal fell 5.1% (740,240 containers and trailers) from 2018. Total carloads of 12.97 million in 2019 were the fewest for any year since sometime prior to 1988, which is when our data begin. Intermodal volume of 13.73 million units in 2019 was the second most ever, behind 2018.
In December 2019, intermodal was down 9.6% from December 2018 — the 11th straight year-over-year monthly decline and the biggest percentage decline for any month since October 2009. … In December 2019, total carloads were down 9.2% from December 2018, their 11th consecutive monthly decline and the biggest percentage decline for any month since May 2016.
From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.