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North American Rail Traffic Tumbles

North American rail traffic tumbled 11.4% last week as the coronavirus pandemic and a collapse in oil prices take their toll on volume, data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) showed.

Carload volume for the week ended March 28 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads fell 8.3%, while intermodal traffic slid 14.4%, the trade group said.

The AAR said the suspension of manufacturing operations by most automakers and reduced consumer spending sparked a 66.8% plunge in rail carloads of autos and auto parts, while falling oil prices weighed on rail shipments of petroleum products, frac sand and steel products.

In the week ended March 21, North American rail traffic was down 7.7%. For the first 13 weeks of the year, North American traffic declined 6%, compared with a year-to-date drop of 5.5% reported a week earlier.

The AAR said U.S. rail traffic fell 11.8% last week, with the volume of intermodal containers and trailers tumbling 14.2% and carloads down 9.1%. U.S. rail traffic is down 7.5% for the year to date, the AAR said, compared with a year-to-date decline of 7.2% reported a week earlier.

Canadian rail traffic fell 10.4% last week amid a 15.6% drop in intermodal units and a 5.9% decline in carloads. Canadian rail traffic is down 2.7% for the first 13 weeks of the year.

Mexican rail traffic slid 10.6% for the week, with carloads down 9.1% and intermodal units down 12.7%. Mexican rail traffic is up 2.3% for the year to date, the AAR said.