The Role of Intermodal in US Rail Freight Traffic Last Week
US rail freight traffic data for the 39th week
On October 4, 2017, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) released the North American freight data for the 39th week of 2017 (ended September 30). The weekly data showed a ~2% rise in US rail freight traffic overall. The total freight volumes rose to ~560,000 railcars from 549,000 in the week ended October 1, 2016.
Railcar traffic in the US totaled ~273,000 units in the 39th week, down 1.6% from the 277,000 railcars we saw in the corresponding week of 2016. This was offset by a 5.5% rise in intermodal traffic. US railroads’ intermodal volumes (containers and trailers) rose to ~287,000 units from ~272,000 units last year.
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Five of the ten carload commodity groups reported volume growth last week, compared with the same week in 2016. These included nonmetallic minerals, metallic ores, metals, and forest products. Commodity groups with lower volumes YoY (year-over-year) included grain, coal (UNG), and motor vehicles (TSLA) and parts.
Canadian and Mexican freight trends
In 2017, Canadian railroads (CNI) have reported high single-digit or double-digit volumes growth. In the 39th week of 2017, the Canadian railroads’ railcars rose 2.2% to ~87,000 units. These railroads posted a 16.3% gain in intermodal traffic to over 73,000 trailers and containers. This makes the third-straight record-setting week for Canadian railroads in intermodal traffic.
Mexican (KSU) railroads registered a 2.4% volume rise in railcar traffic to ~16,500 units last week. However, this was offset by a 1.7% fall in intermodal traffic. Intermodal traffic was just over 13,000 containers and trailers in the 39th week of 2017.
We’ll begin our analysis of individual railroad companies below, starting with Norfolk Southern (NSC).