“Comparing rail traffic from one week to another must be done with caution because many different factors can come into play, especially in the winter when the weather can play a big role,” said Association of American Railroads Senior Vice President Policy and Economics John T. Gray as the AAR reported weekly traffic on March 11. “That said, rail intermodal loadings last week were down noticeably more than the norm over the past year. With the number of ships arriving at West Coast ports from Asia down sharply due to the coronavirus, it stands to reason that railroads are beginning to feel an impact too, at least in terms of intermodal. It’s impossible to quantify that impact with precision.”
Indeed. AAR reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ended March 7, 2020, and, for this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 462,303 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.1% compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ended March 7 were 229,742 carloads, down 3.5% compared with the same week in 2019, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 232,561 containers and trailers, down 14.1% compared to 2019.
Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2019. They included commodities such as chemicals, up 2,050 carloads, to 33,419; petroleum and petroleum products, up 1,984 carloads, to 12,641; and grain, up 1,731 carloads, to 20,863. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2019 were coal, down 17,877 carloads, to 58,659; and metallic ores and metals, down 190 carloads, to 19,672.
For the first 10 weeks of 2020, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,323,120 carloads, down 6.2% from the same point last year; and 2,475,466 intermodal units, down 7.7% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 10 weeks of 2020 was 4,798,586 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7% compared to last year.
North American rail volume for the week ended March 7, 2020, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 333,368 carloads, down 0.6% compared with the same week last year, and 313,700 intermodal units, down 11.9% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 647,068 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.4%. North American rail volume for the first 10 weeks of 2020 was 6,578,995 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.2% compared with 2019.
Canadian railroads reported 83,886 carloads for the week, up 10.8%, and 64,025 intermodal units, down 5.3% compared with the same week in 2019. For the first 10 weeks of 2020, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,407,515 carloads, containers and trailers, down 1.5%.
Mexican railroads reported 19,740 carloads for the week, down 9.6% compared with the same week last year, and 17,114 intermodal units, down 3%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 10 weeks of 2020 was 372,894 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 5.4% from the same point last year.