US Rail Freight Traffic Got a Push from Intermodal in Week 32


Nov. 20 2020, Updated 4:54 p.m. ET

Week 32: US rail freight traffic

On August 15, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) published the weekly traffic data for major North American rail carriers. The data pertained to Week 32, which ended on August 11. AAR divides the data into carload traffic and intermodal units, which are expressed in containers and truck trailers.

In Week 32, US railroad (XLI) companies’ overall rail volumes, including intermodal, rose 2.8% YoY (year-over-year) to ~556,900 railcars from ~541,600 in Week 32 of 2017. Carload traffic expanded 1.8% YoY to ~271,700 units from ~267,000 units. Intermodal volumes rose 3.8% YoY to ~285,200 units from ~274,700 units.

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Changes in carload commodity groups

Seven of the ten carload commodity groups registered a rise in Week 32 compared with the same period in 2017. The commodity groups with major volume gains included petroleum and petroleum products, grain, metallic ores, and metals. The commodity groups that fell compared with Week 32 of 2017 were nonmetallic minerals, coal, and miscellaneous carloads.

CSX (CSX) was the top gainer in total rail volumes, including intermodal, with a 5.7% YoY volume gain in Week 32. It was followed by Union Pacific (UNP), Norfolk Southern (NSC), and Canadian National Railway (CNI) with YoY gains of 4.5%, 2.6%, and 1.9%, respectively, in that week. Canadian Pacific (CP) and Kansas City Southern (KSU) reported lower YoY volumes in Week 32, indicating a loss.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Canadian railroads reported 7.1% YoY growth in carloads, touching ~80,000 units in Week 32. However, their intermodal traffic contracted 2.4% YoY to ~69,100. For the first 32 weeks, Canadian rail carriers registered a cumulative railcar traffic volume of 4.7 million carloads and intermodal units, up 3.9% YoY. 

Mexican rail carriers posted a 9.8% YoY slump in carload traffic, totaling ~20,000 units. Their intermodal traffic declined 4.1% YoY to 19,200 containers and trailers.

In the next part, we’ll discuss BNSF Railway’s freight volumes.


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