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U.S. freight railroads log another dramatic decline in traffic


U.S. freight-rail traffic plunged 22.1 percent to 412,549 carloads and intermodal units during the week ending May 9 compared with the same week a year ago, Association of American Railroads (AAR) data shows.

Railroads logged 185,144 carloads, down 28.4 percent, and 227,405 containers and trailers, down 16 percent. None of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks on a weekly basis posted increases.

Among the commodity group decreases posted during the week, coal was down 34,111 carloads to 46,515; motor vehicles and parts were down 14,876 carloads to 2,108; and metallic ores and metals were down 7,513 carloads to 13,624.

Last week was similar to recent weeks in that the vast majority of rail traffic categories logged large year-over-year volume declines, said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release.

"As in the prior two weeks, autos, coal and steel saw especially big declines in the last week," Gray said. "In terms of total carloads, last week was the second lowest since our data began in 1988."

Railroads have experience weathering difficult times and will get through this one, he said.

"That said, they're hopeful that the efforts now underway to find effective ways to combat the pandemic will bear fruit and our economy can first recover and then return to growth mode," Gray added.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads logged 67,481 carloads for the week, down 21.1 percent, and 69,234 intermodal units, down 0.9 percent. Mexican railroads posted 14,022 carloads during the week, down 36.1 percent, and 13,187 intermodal containers and trailers, down 29.8 percent.

For the first 19 weeks of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019:
• U.S. railroads reported 8,659,843 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.9 percent;
• Canadian railroads reported 2,669,073 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.2 percent;
• Mexican railroads reported 649,270 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.7 percent; and
• North American railroads logged 11,978,186 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.4 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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