Week 15: US Rail Freight Traffic and Canada Ran on Elevated Path


Apr. 23 2018, Published 1:53 p.m. ET

Week 15: US rail freight traffic

On April 18, 2018, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) published its weekly rail freight data. The data relates to 12 major North American railroads for the week ended April 14, 2018, or Week 15. AAR has classified carload traffic into 20 major commodity categories such as grain, coal, chemicals, and primary metal products. Data pertaining to intermodal units are reported separately.

In the 15th week of 2018, US railroads reported a 4.3% increase in total rail traffic, including intermodal units. These railroads moved ~534,200 railcars in that week, compared with more than 512,300 units in the week ended April 15, 2017. While carload traffic expanded 1.6% to more than 258,000 railcars, intermodal volumes surged 6.9% to ~276,000 containers and trailers.

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Changes in carload commodity groups

In the 15th week of 2018, nine of ten carload commodity groups registered a rise YoY (year-over-year). These groups included motor vehicles and parts, metallic ores and metals, and nonmetallic minerals. The only commodity group that posted a decline compared with the same week in 2017 was coal (ARCH).

For the first 15 weeks of 2018, US railroad companies recorded cumulative volumes of 3.8 million carloads. This represents a 0.2% expansion from Week 15 of 2017. Their intermodal units totaled 4.0 million, up 5.4% compared with Week 15 of 2017. The total combined US railcar traffic for the first 15 weeks of 2018 was 7.8 million intermodal units and carloads, representing a 2.8% increase compared to last year.

Canadian and Mexican rail traffic in Week 15

Canadian rail (CP) carriers registered 0.9% growth in carload traffic, crossing more than 84,600 units in Week 15. Their intermodal volumes soared 7.7% to more than 67,300 units compared with the same week in 2017. Mexican railroads (KSU) recorded more than 20,800 carload units and ~17,500 intermodal units for the week. Surprisingly, AAR’s weekly report didn’t mention the YoY change in Mexican railroads’ (IYT) railcar traffic.

We’ll start with BNSF Railway’s (BRK.B) railcar traffic.


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