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Intermodal Growth Pushed US Rail Freight Traffic in Week 7

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Feb. 27 2018, Updated 5:15 p.m. ET

US rail freight traffic in Week 6

On February 21, 2018, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) published the weekly freight data for North American railroads (IYT). This data covered the week ended February 17, 2018, or Week 7.

In that week, total traffic including intermodal units was up 3.2%. US rail carriers moved over 530,500 railcars in Week 7 of 2018 compared with little less than 514,300 railcars in the week ended February 18, 2017.

The weakness in carload traffic persisted in the seventh week of 2018, and it was offset by decent growth in intermodal traffic. In Week 7, carload traffic contracted 0.6% to 251,000 carloads compared with 252,600 carloads in the corresponding week of 2017.

Intermodal traffic (containers and trailers) witnessed a 6.8% jump to ~279,500 units from less than 261,700 units in the seventh week of 2017.

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Changes in carload commodity groups

Out of ten carload commodity groups, five posted year-over-year volume growth in the seventh week of 2018. These groups included nonmetallic minerals, chemicals, and petroleum and petroleum products. Commodity groups that recorded volume losses were coal, grain, and miscellaneous carloads.

For the first seven weeks of 2018, US rail carriers (IYJ) registered cumulative volume of 1.7 million carloads, down 2.6% from the same point in 2017. However, their intermodal traffic totaled 1.8 million units, up 4.0% from last year.

Combined US traffic for the first seven weeks of 2018 totaled 3.6 million carloads and intermodal units, representing an expansion of 0.7% compared to 2017.

Canadian and Mexican freight volumes

Canadian railroads (CNI) (CP) hauled ~71,600 carloads for the seventh week of 2018. On a yearly basis, this traffic was down 9.6%. Their intermodal volumes totaled ~66,300 containers and trailers, up 6.9% compared with the same week in 2017.

Mexican rail (KSU) freight carriers reported around 21,800 carloads for the week, representing a 1.0% rise compared with 2017. However, their intermodal traffic declined 7.0% to ~18,000 intermodal units.

We’ll start the weekly railroad series with BNSF Railway (BRK.B).

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