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Week 36: Hurricanes Impacted North American Rail Freight Traffic

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Part 5
Week 36: Hurricanes Impacted North American Rail Freight Traffic PART 5 OF 10

Comparing BNSF Railway’s Freight Volumes with the Industry in Week 36

BNSF Railway’s railcar volumes

Berkshire Hathaway–owned BNSF Railway (BRK-B) operates in the Western US along with Union Pacific (UNP). The company’s railcar traffic fell 1.4% in the week ended September 9, 2017. Its volumes declined to ~98,000 railcars in that week from 99,000 units in the week ended September 10, 2016.

Comparing BNSF Railway’s Freight Volumes with the Industry in Week 36

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BNSF witnessed a 5.2% decline in its carloads other than coal and coke. This metric was ~54,000 units in week 36 of 2017. However, the company’s coal and coke volumes saw 3.7% gains. These volumes totaled ~44,000 railcars in the reported week of 2017 compared with 42,000 carloads in 2016.

In the 36th week of 2017, compared with rival UNP’s fall in railcars, BNSF registered a much smaller decline. BNSF’s volume decline was in line with US railroads.

Comparing BNSF Railway’s Freight Volumes with the Industry in Week 36

BNSF’s intermodal shipments

Unlike railcars, BNSF Railway recorded an 8.6% rise in overall intermodal volumes in the week ended September 9, 2017. The container and trailer volumes totaled ~93,000 in that week compared with more than 85,000 units in the week ended September 10, 2016.

Containers account for slightly less than 90% of overall intermodal traffic for BNSF Railway. These volumes were up 8.1% to 82,000-plus containers from 76,000-plus units in 2016. Its trailers saw a 13% rise in volumes to more than 10,000 units in the reported week.

BNSF’s intermodal traffic rise was much higher compared with the 3.6% growth reported by US railroads in the 36th week of 2017.

ETF investment

Investors who seek exposure to transportation stocks can hold them indirectly by investing in the SPDR S&P Transportation ETF (XTN). This ETF holds ~40% in key trucking (ODFL) and rail carriers (NSC) in the US.

In the next part of this series, we’ll look at Kansas City Southern (KSU).

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