US freight rail traffic
Every week, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) publishes the North American freight rail data for the previous week. The latest data are for the week ended February 25, 2017, or the eighth week of the year. If you want to compare this week’s freight volume data with the previous week’s, check out Market Realist’s Tracking Rail Traffic for the Week Ended February 18.
During the eighth week of 2017, US rail traffic (BRK-B) rose a marginal 0.1% YoY (year-over-year) to over 521,000 railcars, as compared to ~521,000 railcars in the week ended February 27, 2016.
US carloads rose 3.5% YoY to ~257,000 railcars, as compared to 248,000 railcars in the week ended February 27, 2016. However, intermodal volumes shrank to ~265,000 units, up from 273,000 units during the same period last year.
First eight weeks’ data
Notably, total US carload traffic for the first eight weeks of 2017 was ~2.04 million carloads, up 4.8% from the same point last year. But intermodal units traffic rose only slightly in percentage terms from its levels in 2016.
The total combined US traffic for the first eight weeks of 2017 reached more than 4.1 million carloads and intermodal units, representing a rise of 2.3% as compared to this time last year.
Coal plays a vital role
According to AAR senior official, John Gray, “The 19.2% increase in coal carloads in February 2017 was the highest percentage gain for coal since sometime before 1988 when our current record series began.”
Gray also stated: “While it’s an impressive gain, February 2017 was, unfortunately, also the second worst February in absolute terms for coal since sometime before 1988. It’s all too representative of the challenges railroads are facing as their markets change.”
Canadian and Mexican rail traffic
Canadian rail traffic (CNI) rose 10.3% YoY to just over 78,000 railcars, while intermodal traffic rose 5.2%, settling at about 64,500 units. Mexican railroads carried on the poor performance (KSU) in the eighth week as well. Carloads fell 2.9% during the week ended February 25, 2017, and Mexican intermodal traffic fell 6.4% YoY in the eighth week.
Continue to the next part for a look at Norfolk Southern’s carloads for the week ended February 25, 2017.