How Union Pacific’s Freight Volumes Trended in Week 52



Union Pacific’s freight volumes

Western US rail giant Union Pacific (UNP) saw its carload traffic fall 5.4% YoY (year-over-year) in the 52nd week of 2017 (ended December 30). UNP’s carloads fell to ~75,000 units, down from ~79,000 carloads in the same week last year. This was carload lower than rival BNSF Railway (BRK-B).

The fall in freight volumes was due to a fall across major commodity groups. Carloads other than coal and coke fell 4% YoY. Union Pacific moved ~55,000 units, compared with ~57,200 units during the same week last year.

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Carloads minus coal and coke accounted for 73.7% of UNP’s total carloads, while coal and coke carloads made up 26.3% of the traffic. UNP’s coal and coke carloads shrank 9.2% to 19,600 units, down from 21,600 units in the final week of 2016, but the company’s carload loss was lower than the loss reported by US railroads overall for the week.

Advancing and declining commodity groups

Union Pacific observed higher volumes in the following commodity groups:

  • crushed stone, sand, and gravel
  • stone, clay, and glass products

These commodity groups posted carload losses:

  • grain
  • grain mill products
  • food and kindred products (ADM)
  • lumber and wood products
  • motor vehicles and equipment (TM)

UNP’s intermodal traffic

Union Pacific’s intermodal traffic fell 5.6% for the week, while BNSF Railway’s loss was a mere 2%. UNP hauled ~51,600 trailers and containers, compared with over 54,600 units in the corresponding week of 2016.

Container volumes fell 6.5% to 48,800 units, down from ~52,200 units during the 52nd week of 2017, but trailer volumes jumped 13.7%. The company moved 2,800 trailers in the final week of 2017, up from 2,400 trailers in the same week in its previous year.

Notably, in 2017, Union Pacific saw a 3% rise in carload traffic and 1% growth in intermodal volumes. But compared with other US Class I railroads’ (IYJ) railcar growth, UNP’s gains in the 52nd week were on the lower side.

Now let’s take a look at Norfolk Southern’s (NSC) railcar traffic during the same week.


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