KANSAS CITY — The US Senate on Aug. 10 advanced infrastructure legislation that includes nearly $845 million annually for highway-rail grade crossing safety improvements and $1 billion for grant program that supports short-line and passenger railroads.
Within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a five-year surface transportation reauthorization negotiated by the Senate Commerce and Environment and Public Works committees.
The Association of American Railroads lauded the legislation moving forward.
“Throughout this year’s infrastructure conversations, the Senate has remained clear-eyed and committed to building consensus around a package that could help pave the way to future economic growth,” said Ian Jefferies, president and chief executive officer of the AAR. “Today, it delivered. Railroads applaud the Senate and the Biden administration on their leadership and urge the House to follow suit by quickly approving this landmark legislation.”
The bill also sets aside significant funding for research, development and demonstration projects designed to refine technologies that will help railroads to continue reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and further address climate change.
The AAR in its weekly rail traffic report indicated US rail traffic in the week ended Aug. 7 totaled 509,607 carloads and intermodal units, up 2% compared with the same week in 2020. Carloads in the week totaled 234,336, up 6% compared with the same week a year earlier, while US weekly intermodal volume was 275,271 containers and trailers, down 0.6% compared to 2020.
Six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week a year earlier: Chemicals, coal, forest products, metallic ores and metals, nonmetallic minerals and other. Grain, farm products and food excluding grain, motor vehicles and parts, and petroleum and petroleum products each posted declines compared with the same week in 2020.
Grain carloads in the week totaled 18,190, down 17% from a year earlier, brining the 2021 cumulative total to 737,251 carloads for an average of 23,782 per week, up 15% from the previous year.
Cumulative volume on US railroads in the first 31 weeks of 2021 was 7,141,531 carloads, up 9% from the same point last year; and 8,673,507 intermodal units, up 15% from last year. Total combined US traffic for the first 31 weeks of 2021 was 15,815,038 carloads and intermodal units, up 12% compared to the same period last year, the AAR said.
Canadian carloads in the week totaled 72,235, up 2%, and 68,578 intermodal units, down 1% compared with the same week in 2020. For the first 31 weeks of 2021, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,604,192 carloads, containers and trailers, up 7% from the same period in 2020. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 5,596, down 44% from the same week a year earlier, bringing 2021 cumulative Canadian grain carloads to 288,717 for an average of 9,313 per week, up 8% from the same period in 2020.
Mexican railroads reported 19,407 carloads for the week, down 12% compared with the same week last year, and 14,593 intermodal units, down 17%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 31 weeks of 2021 was 1,142,955 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 7% from the same point last year. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 2,364, down 19% from the same week in 2020, bringing the cumulative 2021 total to 64,953 for an average of 2,095 grain carloads per week, down 12% from the same period in 2020.
North American rail volume on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads in the week totaled 325,978 carloads, up 4% compared with the same week last year, and 358,442 intermodal units, down 2% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 684,420 carloads and intermodal units, up 1%. North American rail volume for the first 31 weeks of 2021 was 21,562,185 carloads and intermodal units, up 11% compared with 2020. North American grain carloads in the week totaled 26,150, down 25% from the same week in 2020, bringing the 2021 cumulative total to 1,090,921 for an average of 35,191 per week, up 11% from the same period in 2020.
The average August shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $57 above tariff for the week ended July 29, up $174 from the previous week but $499 lower compared with the same week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers in the week, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service said.
Barged grain movements in the week ended July 31 totaled 651,006 tons, up 27% from the previous week, but down 22% from the same week in 2020, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. In the same week, 457 grain barges moved down river, 135 more barges than in the prior week, according to the Corps and AMS. There were 650 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 7% fewer than in the previous week.
Ocean freight activity
In the week ended July 29, 36 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf comprising Mississippi, Texas and East Gulf areas, the AMS said. That was up 44% from the same period last year. In the 10 days from July 30, 52 vessels were expected to be loaded, a 49% increase from the same period last year.
The rate for shipping one tonne of grain on July 29 from the US Gulf to Japan was $81, unchanged from the previous week. O the same date, shipping a tonne of grain from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $43, down 2% from the previous week.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) regulations were temporarily suspended by three state governors to allow drivers of commercial motor vehicles more time to transport feed to farmers. The suspensions were in response to drought and supply complications that include high demand, long wait times at terminals and the ongoing national driver shortage.
Minnesota’s governor waived HOS regulations through Aug. 27 to ease access to vital feedstuffs amid a shortage of hay and other forage due to severe drought conditions in 14 Minnesota counties. South Dakota’s HOS suspension covers delivery of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethanol “to meet the agriculture and tourism industries’ fuel supply needs during a busy time,” the US Department of Transportation said in its weekly Grain Transportation Report. An emergency declaration in Iowa suspended HOS regulations through Aug. 28 for crews and drivers delivering motor fuels, including gasoline, diesel No. 1 and No. 2, ethanol, and biodiesel. Also in Iowa fees and permits for oversize and overweight vehicles transporting motor fuels, not exceeding 90,000 lbs were suspended through Aug. 28.
Trucking lanes and fuel prices
An Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River linking Arkansas to Tennessee, a key trucking route, reopened to all east- and westbound traffic on Aug. 2. The bridge was closed May 11 when a crack in the span was detected. The two states plan to split the $9.5 million cost for the bridge’s repairs, design and inspection. About a quarter of 50,000 vehicles crossing the bridge daily are commercial trucks.
In the week ended Aug. 2, the US average diesel fuel price increased 2.5¢ from the previous week to $3.367 per gallon, 94.3¢ above the same week last year, the Energy Information Administration said. National diesel prices have risen every week for the last 15 weeks bar the week ended July 26 when the price eased 0.2¢.
US on-highway diesel fuel prices per gallon in the week ended Aug. 9 by region with changes from the previous week and compared to a year earlier:
|West Coast less California||$3.675||0.014||1.087|