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North American Rail Traffic Fell 20% in Week Ended Nov. 30

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12/04/2019 | 12:53pm EST

By Colin Kellaher

North American rail traffic plunged 20% last week, data from the Association of American Railroads showed, dragged down by a strike in Canada and a holiday calendar shift in the U.S.

Carload volume for the week ended Nov. 30 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads slid 20.3%, while intermodal traffic fell 19.7%, the trade group said.

North American rail traffic was up 5.5% in the week ended Nov. 23. For the first 48 weeks of the year, North American volume is down 3.6%, compared with a year-to-date decline of 3.3% reported a week earlier.

The AAR said U.S. rail traffic tumbled 23% last week, following a 10.6% rise a week earlier, due to a calendar shift related to the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. carloads fell 21.3%, with steep declines across all 10 commodity groups tracked. The volume of U.S. intermodal containers and trailers plummeted 24.5% for the week.

For the month of November, U.S. rail traffic fell 7.4%, marking the 10th straight month of declines for both carloads and intermodal units. U.S. rail traffic is down 4.7% for the year to date, the AAR said, compared with a year-to-date decline of 4.2% reported a week earlier.

"Rail traffic continues to struggle because U.S. manufacturing is soft, trade disputes and the uncertainty they entail are ongoing, and economic growth abroad isn't what it could be," said John Gray, AAR senior vice president. "That said, we're confident that rail volumes will begin to grow again as the manufacturing portion of the economy finds firmer footing."

The AAR said Canadian rail traffic fell 12.5% last week, as a strike at Canadian National Railway Co. (CNR.T), Canada's biggest rail network, led to a 20.2% drop in carloads. The volume of intermodal units fell 3%.

Canadian National last week struck a tentative agreement with the union representing 3,200 conductors and yard-crew workers, bringing an end to the weeklong strike.

Mexican rail traffic fell 7.4% last week, the AAR said, amid a 7% decline in carloads and a 7.9% drop in intermodal units.

Write to Colin Kellaher at colin.kellaher@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AAR CORP. -0.91% 45.3 Delayed Quote.1.60%
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. -0.28% 344000 Delayed Quote.1.58%
CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY -1.00% 125.13 Delayed Quote.6.94%
CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY LIMITED -1.62% 336.72 Delayed Quote.3.64%
CORN FUTURES (C) - CBR (FLOOR)/C1 3.66% 389.25 End-of-day quote.0.39%
CSX CORPORATION -1.87% 74.945 Delayed Quote.5.58%
KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN -0.44% 165.62 Delayed Quote.8.72%
NORFOLK SOUTHERN CORPORATION -2.04% 204.47 Delayed Quote.7.82%
UNION PACIFIC -1.58% 182.3 Delayed Quote.2.51%
WHEAT FUTURES (W) - CBR (FLOOR)/C1 0.93% 570.5 End-of-day quote.2.10%
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