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US Rail Freight Traffic Showed Signs of Revival in Week 4

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US rail freight traffic in Week 4

On January 31, 2018, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) released its freight data of North American railroads (CP) for the week ended January 27, 2018, or Week 4 of 2018. Since the beginning of 2018, Week 4 has marked the first week of the new year that showed expansion in railcar traffic. In Week 4 of 2017, overall railcar traffic was up ~3.0% compared to 2016.

In the fourth week of 2018, carload traffic increased marginally by 1.1% whereas intermodal traffic was up 6.9%. US railroads moved around 261,300 carloads in the fourth week of 2018 compared with slightly over 258,000 carloads in the corresponding week of 2017. Their intermodal containers and trailers were ~282,500 units, up from nearly 264,300 units in the fourth week of 2017.

In the fourth week of 2018, six of the ten carload commodity groups reported an increase compared with the same week in 2017. These groups included nonmetallic minerals, petroleum and petroleum products (UNG), and miscellaneous carloads.

The commodity groups that posted a decline during the week included motor vehicles and parts, coal, and farm products excluding grain and food.

For the first four weeks of 2018, US railroads posted cumulative volume of more than 952,000 carloads, down 3.9% from the same level in 2017. Their intermodal units totaled ~1.0 million units, up 2.7% from 2017.

Combined US traffic for the first four weeks of 2018 was ~2.0 million carloads and intermodal units. On a year-over-year basis, it was down 0.6% compared to 2017.

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Canadian and Mexican railroads’ freight traffic

Canadian railroads (CNI) registered ~79,000 carloads for the week ended January 27, 2018, down 1.3%. The intermodal units hauled by these railroads included 67,500 containers and trailers, up 5.4% compared with the same week in 2017.

Mexican rail carriers (KSU) posted ~21,700 carloads for the fourth week of 2018, down 1.7% compared with the corresponding week in 2017. These railroads carried more than 18,300 intermodal units, indicating 2.0% growth year-over-year.

Next, let’s find out which Class I railroad left the peer group behind in terms of volume growth in the fourth week of 2018. We’ll turn to Western US rail giant BNSF Railway (BRK.B).

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