A combination of a weak domestic manufacturing sector, feeble economic growth abroad that’s limiting exports, continued trade spats that are disrupting global supply chains, and general economic uncertainty are creating strong headwinds for U.S. rail volumes.
In October 2019, total U.S. rail carloads were down 8.4% from October 2018, their ninth straight decline. … Intermodal won no prizes in October either: it was down 7.8%, its biggest percentage decline since January 2009.
This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the year-over-year changes in U.S. Carloads.
Total carloads originated by U.S. railroads in October 2019 were down 8.4%, or 112,703 carloads, from October 2018. That’s the ninth straight yearover- year decline and the biggest percentage decline since March 2019. For the first ten months of 2019, total carloads were down 4.3%, or 497,121 carloads, from the same period last year. Year-to-date carloads were slightly lower in 2016, but other than that, 2019’s year-to-date total is the lowest since sometime prior to 1988, when our data begin.
U.S. intermodal originations in October 2019 were 7.8% lower than in October 2018, their ninth straight monthly decline — something that hasn’t happened since 2009 during the Great Recession. Year-to-date intermodal volume through October was down 4.5%, or 553,863 containers and trailers, from 2018.
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