By Colin Kellaher

 

North American rail traffic fell 7.3% in the week ended Dec. 28, wrapping up a down year for the industry, data from the Association of American Railroads showed.

Carload volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads fell 7%, while intermodal traffic slid 7.6%, the trade group said Friday.

North American rail traffic was down 8.7% in the week ended Dec. 21. For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 28, North American volume fell 4%, the AAR said, compared with a year-to-date drop of 3.9% reported a week earlier.

The AAR said U.S. rail traffic slid 9.2% last week following an 10.5% drop a week earlier. U.S. carloads fell 8.9% amid declines in all 10 commodity groups tracked. The volume of U.S. intermodal containers and trailers fell 9.5% for the week.

For the month of December, U.S. rail traffic fell 9.4%, marking the 11th straight month of declines for both carloads and intermodal units. U.S. rail traffic was down 5% for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 28, compared with a year-to-date drop of 4.9% reported a week earlier, the trade group said.

The AAR said carloads of coal, the largest commodity group tracked, were down 9.2% in 2019, reaching their lowest level in decades and falling 45% from their 2006 peak.

"No question, 2019 was a challenging year for rail traffic, thanks mainly to the macroeconomy and continued years-long changes in energy markets," said John Gray, AAR senior vice president, adding that trade disputes and the resulting economic uncertainty hurt U.S. rail-served industries much more than the overall economy.

"With recent progress on USMCA and in the China trade talks, railroads are hopeful that these lingering issues will be resolved in 2020 and create the certainty rail customers need to invest," Mr. Gray said.

The AAR said Canadian rail traffic slipped 1% during the week, with carloads down 1% and intermodal units off 0.9%. For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 28, Canadian rail traffic edged down 0.4%

Mexican rail traffic fell 7.2% last week, as carloads tumbled 9.4% and intermodal units fell 4.6%. For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 28, Mexican rail traffic fell 2.9%.

 

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

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 03, 2020 13:41 ET (18:41 GMT)

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