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Commodities that Led CSX’s Rail Freight Volume Growth in Week 30

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CSX’s carload traffic

Eastern US railroad giant CSX Corporation (CSX) reported 6.1% YoY (year-over-year) carload traffic growth in Week 30. The railroad’s intermodal gains were lower than carload traffic growth in the week. CSX moved ~71,000 railcars excluding intermodal compared to ~66,900 railcars in the previous year. 

The company’s overall railcar traffic is slowly getting back on track in 2018. Compared with US railroads’ (XTN) carload traffic gains of 1.2% in Week 30, CSX’s gains were much higher in the same category. Rival Norfolk Southern (NSC) also lagged behind CSX in Week 30’s carload traffic gains.

CSX’s railcar traffic excluding coal and coke accounted for 74.5% of its total volumes in Week 30. The company’s coal and coke railcars comprised 25.5% of its volumes. The commodity groups other than coal and coke saw a 3.0% YoY increase in traffic to ~52,800 railcars from ~51,300 railcars. 

Coal and coke railcar traffic expanded 16.4% YoY. The railroad hauled ~18,100 coal and coke railcars in the week compared to 15,600 in the same period of 2017.

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Changes in CSX’s carload commodity groups

The following commodity groups’ volumes were in the green in Week 30:

  • grain
  • food products
  • primary metal products
  • pulp and paper products
  • stone, clay, and glass products
  • waste and nonferrous scrap
  • motor vehicles and parts

The following commodity groups’ volumes were in the red in Week 30:

  • chemicals
  • non-metallic minerals
  • crushed stone, sand, and gravel
  • metallic ores

CSX’s intermodal traffic

CSX’s intermodal traffic gains were much lower than its carload traffic gains in Week 30. In the week, the railroad registered 2.4% YoY growth in intermodal traffic. CSX moved ~58,100 containers and trailers in the week compared to ~56,700 in the same period of 2017. 

Container traffic jumped ~2.5% YoY to 56,000 units in Week 30, compared to ~54,600 in the previous year. Trailer traffic expanded a marginal 0.7% YoY in the week. CSX hauled ~2,100 trailers in Week 30 of 2017.

CSX’s total railcar traffic declined 0.1% YoY in the first 30 weeks of 2018, compared to the 3.9% growth reported by US railroad companies during the same period.

Class I railroads’ 2018 capex

Declining coal volumes and weakness in energy-related commodities’ prices resulted in lower volumes for the major US railroads (EXI) in 2017. This compelled them to align their assets with reduced volumes. As a result, Class I railroads Norfolk Southern (NSC), Union Pacific (UNP), CSX (CSX), and Kansas City Southern (KSU) reduced their budgeted capex YoY compared to 2017.

In the next part, we’ll consider Kansas City Southern’s (KSU) rail traffic.

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