US Rail Freight Traffic Showed Mixed Bag in Week 43
Week 43: US rail freight traffic
The AAR (Association of American Railroads) has released its weekly freight volume data on North American railroads for the 43rd week of 2017 (ended October 28). Overall freight volumes for US railroads in rose 0.3%, compared with the week ended October 29, 2016.
Including intermodal volumes, US rail freight traffic totaled ~546,600 railcars for the week, compared with ~545,000 in the same week last year.
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When we separate the US rail (XLI) freight volumes between railcars and intermodal units, we can see that the intermodal volume change was different from the railcar change. US railroads moved 263,000 carloads during the week, or 3.2% lower than the ~272,000 carloads it moved during the same week last year.
Railroads’ intermodal volumes rose 3.7% to ~284,000 containers and trailers from ~273,000 units in the 43rd week of 2016.
October marks strong intermodal growth
The AAR reported that the intermodal volumes for October 2017 were the best for intermodal rail traffic in US rail freight history.
AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray stated: “Year-over-year, US rail carloads in October were held back by declines in carloads of grain and coal. However, carloads of these commodities tend to rise or fall for reasons that have little to do with the state of the economy…As such, rail carloads, as well as record intermodal volume in October, support the view that the economy is doing somewhat better now than it has been in the past two years.”
Non-US freight volume trends
Canadian rail carriers (CNI) (CP) reported a 1% rise in railcar traffic to ~82,700 railcars in the 43rd week of 2017. These railroads’ intermodal volumes rose 15.8% to ~71,000 containers and trailers.
Mexican railroads (KSU) also reported volume gains in railcars and intermodal, with intermodal volumes rising 14.9% to nearly 14,000 units.
Notably, BNSF Railway (BRK-B) leads the US class-I railroad pack with the highest share in overall rail freight. We’ll assess BNSF’s freight volumes in the 43rd week in the next part (below).