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5/21/2020



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. carload volume tumbles 30 percent in Week 20


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U.S. railroads logged 184,415 carloads in the week ending May 16, marking a 30.2 percent drop and the biggest decline in year-over-year weekly carload traffic since the Association of American Railroads (AAR) began tracking the data in 1988.

For the week, U.S. railroads moved 416,115 carload and intermodal units, down 22 percent compared with the same week a year ago. Weekly intermodal volume was 231,700 containers and trailers, down 14 percent, according to AAR data.

The falloff in coal traffic didn't help the week's traffic numbers; last week was the fifth consecutive week in which coal carloads were down at least 40 percent from last year, said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release.

"For many other key rail commodities — including chemicals, petroleum products, and crushed stone and sand — carloads last week were roughly the same as in the previous weeks, while intermodal originations last week were the most in eight weeks," Gray said.

None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase during the week compared with a year ago. Among the groups, coal was down 35,879 carloads to 45,756; motor vehicles and parts were down 14,242 carloads to 2,865; and metallic ores and metals were down 9,245 carloads to 14,101.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, North American freight railroads will stay focused on protecting the health and safety of their workers, while also maintaining the flow of goods to help the economy recover as quickly as possible, Gray said.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads posted 64,416 carloads for the week, down 25.4 percent, and 66,940 intermodal units, down 3.7 percent, during the week compared with a year ago. Mexican railroads logged 14,578 carloads, down 32.3 percent, and 14,277 intermodal units, down 20.9 percent. 

For the first 20 weeks of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019:
• U.S. railroads moved 9,075,958 carloads and intermodal units, down 12.5 percent;
• Canadian railroads moved 2,800,429 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.7 percent;
• Mexican railroads moved 678,125 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.8 percent; and
• North American railroads moved 12,554,512 carloads and intermodal units, down 11 percent.



Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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