US Freight Rail Traffic Gets Back on Track in Week 17

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Part 8
US Freight Rail Traffic Gets Back on Track in Week 17 PART 8 OF 14

Commodities that Boosted BNSF Railway’s Carloads

BNSF Railway’s carloads

BNSF Railway (BRK-B) operates in the Western United States and competes primarily with Union Pacific (UNP). Its total railcars for the week ended April 29, 2017, rose 14.8% YoY (year-over-year) to 93,500 units, compared with ~81,000 units in the corresponding week of 2016.

Carloads other than coal and coke rose 11.5% YoY to ~62,000 units in the week ended April 29, 2017. The rise in BNSF Railway’s overall carloads was higher than the overall rise reported by US railroad companies.

Commodities that Boosted BNSF Railway&#8217;s Carloads

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Why coal matters to BNSF

BNSF Railway saw its coal and coke freight volumes rise 34.0% YoY in the 16th week of 2017, similar to the rise reported by rival UNP. In 2015, coal transportation contributed nearly 22.0% of freight revenue for BNSF Railway.

About 90.0% of BNSF’s coal originates from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Major coal producers operating in the area include Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) and Peabody Energy (BTU). Environmental concerns and competition from natural gas (UGAZ) hampered incremental coal shipment prospects for coal producers (ARLP) in 2016.

Commodity groups

The commodities that rose in the week ended April 29, 2017, were the following:

  • grain
  • food
  • sand and gravel
  • iron and steel scrap
  • metal
  • stone, clay, and glass

The main falling commodity groups were:

  • petroleum
  • forest products
  • lumber and wood
  • chemicals
  • metallic ores

In the next article, we’ll look at BNSF Railway’s intermodal traffic in the week ended April 29, 2017.


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