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Inside BNSF Railway’s Railcar Volumes in Week 25

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BNSF Railway’s freight railcars

BNSF Railway (BRK-B) competes with Union Pacific (UNP) and dominates the Western US territories. BNSF operates with a rail network of 33,000 route miles in 28 states and three Canadian provinces.

BNSF reported a slight 1.2% rise in its overall freight railcars excluding intermodal in the week ended June 24, 2017. The company’s carloads rose to ~95,000 YoY (year-over-year), compared to 93,500 units in the comparable week of 2016.

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The rise in the company’s overall railcar volumes was halted by the slump in its carloads excluding coal and coke. Its carloads other than coal and coke fell a marginal 0.4% YoY to ~59,000 units in week 25. The growth in its total carloads, in percentage terms, was almost half the rise reported by US railroad companies.

BNSF Railway’s coal volumes

BNSF’s coal and coke railcars expanded 3.8% YoY in week 25 of 2017. On the other hand, US railroad companies’ total coal volumes rose 11.2% in the same week. Even Union Pacific (UNP) reported a mid-single-digit rise in the category in week 25.

Note that coal’s contribution to BNSF Railway’s overall 1Q17 freight revenue was ~21.0%. The company’s coal traffic rose 18% in 1Q17. A rise in natural gas prices (UNG) led to higher consumption of utility coal (ANR) (ARLP).

Year-over-year changes in commodity groups

The commodity groups that rose in the week were as follows:

  • sand and gravel
  • metallic ore
  • metals
  • forest products
  • lumber and wood

The commodity groups that reported major falls in volumes were grain, food, petroleum, and farm products excluding grain.

Next, let’s discuss BNSF Railway’s intermodal traffic in week 25.

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