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BNSF Railway’s Intermodal versus UNP’s

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BNSF’s intermodal volume in week 27

BNSF Railway’s (BRK-B) total intermodal volumes (containers and trailers) rose 8.3% in the week ended July 8, 2017. The company moved ~86,000 intermodal units that week, compared with over 79,000 units in the week ended July 9, 2016.

A further breakdown of intermodal volumes reflects containers grew at a faster rate than trailers grew. While BNSF’s containers rose 8.4% to ~77,000 units, trailers gained 7.4% to ~9,000 units in the 27th week of this year.

On the intermodal front, BNSF Railway left behind rival Union Pacific (UNP) in terms of percentage volume growth in the reported week. While US railroads reported a 3.7% rise in intermodal traffic, BNSF’s 8.3% gain stole the show.

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BNSF’s cumulative intermodal volumes

In the first 27 weeks of 2017, BNSF reported the maximum percentage gain in volumes among all its Class I peers. Compared with the 2.7% gain in intermodal volumes by US railroads, BNSF posted a 5% rise in the same category.

Containers account for roughly 90% of total intermodal volumes, and BNSF reported 5.4% volume gains in containers, compared with its 2.4% rise in trailer traffic. Other Class I railroads reported a higher rise in trailer volumes than in containers in the first 27 weeks of the year.

Domestic intermodal

On the domestic intermodal front, BNSF hopes to convert a portion of its ~8.0 million truckloads over the next few quarters.

Intermodal growth for railroads also depend on consumer spending, highway-to-rail conversions, and momentum in the international market. Higher fuel prices also drive railroad intermodal business. In the current scenario, the intermodal growth for all US Class I railroads is expected to remain subdued.

ETF investment

Investors wanting to invest in transport and logistics stocks can opt for the SPDR S&P Transportation ETF (XTN). This ETF has around 40% in major trucking (JBHT) and railroads (NSC) in the United States.

Now let’s move to Kansas City Southern (KSU).

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