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North American Rail Volumes Rose in Week 36

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Nov. 20 2020, Updated 4:22 p.m. ET

Week 36: US rail freight traffic

The AAR (Association of American Railroads) published weekly traffic data on September 12 from the 12 major North American railroads for week 36 (the week ended on September 8). AAR’s weekly freight data is classified into carload traffic and intermodal units. Intermodal units are expressed in containers and truck trailers.

Let’s see how the US rail traffic performed in week 36. US railroad (XLI) companies’ overall railcar traffic rose 4.2% YoY (year-over-year). US railroads moved ~502,200 railcars in the week compared to ~482,100 in the same period last year. Carload traffic expanded 2.6% YoY to ~253,300 units from ~246,900 units. Intermodal volume grew 5.8% YoY to ~249,000 units from ~235,300 units.

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Changes in carload commodity groups

Out of ten carload commodity groups, nine registered a rise compared to week 36 of 2017. Commodities with major volume gains included petroleum and petroleum products, grain, and non-metallic minerals. Coal was the only commodity group where volumes went down in week 36 compared to the corresponding week last year.

The smallest railroad, Kansas City Southern (KSU), posted the highest YoY volume gains of 11% in week 36 among all the class I railroads. KSU was followed by Canada’s number two railroad, Canadian Pacific (CP), which ranked second with 8.2% volume gains. Major Eastern US railroad CSX (CSX) remained in the third spot with a 7% YoY rise in the week.

Union Pacific (UNP) ranked fourth in terms of total railcar volume gains. The railroad reported 6.7% YoY rail traffic gains in the week. Norfolk Southern (NSC) remained in the fifth position with 6% volume growth YoY. BNSF Railway (BRK.B) recorded the lowest YoY volume gains of 0.4% in week 36.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Canadian railroads moved ~82,500 carloads in week 36, indicating a 3.9% YoY increase. Their intermodal traffic grew 4.1% YoY to ~65,400. For the first 36 weeks, Canadian railroad companies posted a cumulative railcar traffic volume of ~5.4 million carloads, containers, and trailers, up 3.9% YoY. Mexican rail carriers hauled ~21,200 carloads, down 2% YoY compared to the levels hauled in last year’s week 36. Their intermodal volumes, however, were significantly up by 27.2% YoY to ~19,600 trailers and containers.

In the next article, we’ll look at BNSF Railway.

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