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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Freight-rail traffic trend reflects uncertain times


U.S. freight-rail traffic fell 23.3 percent to 403,283 carloads and intermodal units during the week ending April 18 compared with traffic during the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

U.S. railroads posted 189,598 carloads, a 27.5 percent decline, and 213,685 intermodal containers and trailers, a 19.1 percent drop.

None of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks on a weekly basis posted an increase during the week, association officials said in a press release.

"Rail volumes suffered again last week as extremely difficult times for rail customers and the economy continued," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. "Like everyone else, railroads are looking forward to a return to normalcy and an end to the significant challenges associated with the pandemic. Until that happens, railroads will work hard to keep their employees and the communities they serve safe, will continue to deliver the goods needed to sustain and heal the nation and, when when appropriate, support its economic restoration."

Also during the week, Canadian railroads logged 72,049 carloads, down 13.5 percent, and 65,088 intermodal units, down 7.9 percent. Mexican railroads posted 16,148 carloads for the week, down 10.3 percent, and 13,005 intermodal units, down 10.2 percent.

For the first 16 weeks of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019:
• U.S. railroads reported 7,416,217 carloads and intermodal units, down 10 percent;
• Canadian railroads reported 2,253,268 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.7 percent;
• Mexican railroads reported 566,892 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 2.2 percent; and
• North American rail volume was 10,236,377 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.4 percent.

Rail volumes have reached a 10-year low as a result of the impact that the COVID-19 restrictions have had on overseas imports and other business, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration's National Business Emergency Operations Center.

The projected cost to railroads as a result of the pandemic is $9 billion in lost freight in the short term, the government agency estimates, ABC News reported yesterday.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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