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What Pushed BNSF Railway’s Freight Volumes in Week 47?

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BNSF Railway’s carloads in week 47

In the week ended November 25, 2017, BNSF Railway (BRK-B) reported a 2.7% loss in carloads. The company hauled over 93,000 railcars compared with ~95,600 railcars in the week ended November 26 last year. BNSF’s carload volume decline in the reported week of 2017 was in contrast with the US railroads’ minor gain. Union Pacific (UNP), the arch rival of BNSF, posted 5.5% carload gains in the 47th week of 2017 in comparison with the latter’s volume loss.

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BNSF Railway moved ~55,700 other than coal and coke carloads in that week, up 4.1% from 53,500 railcars last year. However, the coal (UNG) and coke carloads declined 11.2% to around 37,400 units from over 42,000 units on a YoY (year-over-year) basis. Coal volumes of Western US freight carriers have been declining in the last few weeks.

Change in commodity groups

Commodity groups that rose in week 47 were as follows:

  • motor vehicles (TM)
  • metallic ores
  • sand and gravel
  • stone, clay, and glass
  • lumber and wood

The commodity groups that witnessed lower volumes were as follows:

  • grain
  • chemicals (DOW)
  • food
  • pulp and paper
  • grain mill products

BNSF’s intermodal volumes

The company’s intermodal volume growth continued in week 47. BNSF’s intermodal traffic expanded 6.8% in the week to 88,700 containers and trailers compared with slightly over 83,000 units in the corresponding week last year. Containers accounted for 88.2% of total intermodal traffic, while the trailer share was 11.8%.

Container volumes fell 5.8% to over 78,000 units in week 47, whereas trailer traffic soared 15.5% to nearly 10,500 trailers. In the reported week, BNSF Railway’s intermodal gains were higher than the percentage gains realized by US railroads.

Next, we’ll look at Union Pacific’s (UNP) freight traffic next.

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