CVD-19: Brunt Of Slowdown Yet To Hit Regional Freight

Northeast Freight Traffic So Far (Mostly) Immune to CVD-19. Fresh Tunnel Crews Keep Hoosac Repairs Going for Month-End Reopening. NS Ayer Intermodal Train Staged at Mechanicville.

26 March, Regionwide – Freight in New England and eastern Canada still seems to be moving more-or-less normally, considering the roller-coaster exigencies that have characterized the first quarter. Only NS Ayer intermodal traffic remains blocked, and those trains are on-deck to resume when the Hoosac Tunnel reopens by month’s end {NS Hoosac Tunnel Update, 23.Mar.2020}.

Auto traffic inbound to New England has recently begun moving, but likely will cease soon, as auto manufacturers plants shutter plants and closed dealers cancel deliveries. Auto terminals and ramps are filled with stranded vehicles {Trains Magazine, 24.Mar.2020}.

Running light

Intermodal freight traffic is down 11.4% nationwide compared to this time in 2019. IM traffic bottomed for the year (to date) in week of 07.March as supply chain disruptions from the China shutdown reached our shores. Week of 14.March (the last week for which official figures are currently available — Ed.) improved slightly to —9.1%, before pandemic measures began to seriously impact domestic productivity {AAR}. Traffic at the Port of Los Angeles, buffeted by the China situation, was down 23% in February {Port of Los Angeles, 10.Mar.2020}. Traffic at the Port of New York & New Jersey is expected to be down 30% in March due to ships from China that didn’t sail {Port of New York & New Jersey}.


Canary in the outhouse: toilet paper

Nationally, toilet paper sales jumped 213% {Nielson market research}. This is not just hoarding – Americans are going to need 140% more toilet paper at home due to workplace shutdowns {IRI market research}. In the northeast, ongoing tissue pulp shortages stemming back to last year’s CN strike, were aggravated by February’s Canadian First Nations’ rail blockade campaign, and now by Coronavirus emergency border closures.