By Colin Kellaher
North American rail traffic fell 6.4% last week, paced by a double-digit drop in U.S. intermodal volume, data from the Association of American Railroads showed.
Carload volume for the week ended March 7 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads slipped 0.6%, while intermodal traffic slid 11.9%, the trade group said Wednesday.
North American rail traffic was down 8.3% in the week ended Feb. 29. For the first 10 weeks of the year, North American traffic declined 5.2%, the AAR reported.
The AAR said U.S. rail traffic fell 9.1% last week, amid a 14.1% drop in the volume of intermodal containers and trailers that appears to be related to the coronavirus epidemic.
"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," said John Gray, AAR senior vice president, adding that the group can't yet quantify the impact with precision.
U.S. carloads fell 3.5% last week, as a 23.4% drop in shipments of coal, the largest of the 10 commodity groups tracked, more than offset rises in most other categories. U.S. rail traffic is down 7% for the first 10 weeks of the year.
Canadian rail traffic rose 3.2% last week, as blockades by protesters of a natural-gas pipeline came to an end. A 10.8% rise in carloads more than offset a 5.3% decline in intermodal units. Canadian rail traffic is down 1.5% for the first 10 weeks of the year.
Mexican rail traffic fell 6.7% for the week, with carloads off 9.6% and intermodal units down 3%. Mexican rail traffic is up 5.4% for the first 10 weeks of the year.
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