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North American forest products rail freight ends 2020 down 5.7%; railroads achieve PTC

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North American forest products rail freight ends 2020 down 5.7%; railroads achieve PTC

December 30, 2020 - 17:04
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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 30, 2020 (Fastmarkets RISI) -North American forest products railroad freight was down 5.7% through 52 weeks ending Dec. 26, 2020, from a year ago at 811,289 carloads, the Assn of American Railroads reported. Volume was up 1% in the week at 13,905 carloads.

The results show a partial recovery in North American forest products volumes after declines earlier in the year from COVID-19, with forest products being an essential industry but many other businesses locked down.

Forest products rail volumes were down 4.5% through the end of March from 2019, down 10.5% through early June, and 8.4% lower through the end of July as recovery began, according to AAR reports.

Total forest products freight in 2019 had declined 6.1% from 2018.

US 2020 forest products volume was 5.1% lower from a year ago at 483,607 carloads and in the latest week was down 4.5%.

Canadian volume was down 6.4% year-to-date to 327,219 carloads and in the latest week was up 11.2%.

Forest products traffic in Mexico for the year was down 31.4% to 1,003 carloads and in the week was 57.1% lower, AAR showed.

Total overall North American rail carloads in 2020 declined 11.3% to 16.22 carloads, with chemicals down 2.7%, coal down 23.7%, and motor vehicles and parts 20.6% lower. Total traffic including intermodal was 6.8% lower in 2020 to 34 million units.

Positive Train Control.AAR also noted that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Dec. 29 that US passenger and freight railroads have met or surpassed the statutory requirements for Positive Train Control (PTC) outlined in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

The nation’s Class I railroads invested nearly $11.5 billion to develop, install and implement fully interoperable PTC systems across 53,676 miles of PTC-required track.

“After years of tireless, methodical work, the nation’s railroads have created a fully interoperable PTC system capable of automatically stopping a train before certain human error related accidents occur,” AAR commented in a press release.