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US Rail Freight Traffic Grew 4.2% in Week 51

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US rail traffic

The US rail traffic growth trend continued with a 4.2% increase in carloads and intermodal units in the week ending on December 22 (week 51), according to the latest report by the AAR (Association of American Railroads) released on December 27. The AAR receives weekly rail data from 12 major US, Mexican, and Canadian railroad companies. The weekly rail traffic figures are divided into carload traffic and intermodal units.

Railroad companies hauled 567,252 railcars during the week. The carload traffic increased 3.1% YoY (year-over-year) to 277,111 units from 268,779 units. The intermodal traffic rose 5.3% YoY to 290,141 units from 275,538 units.

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Six out of the ten carload commodity groups reported increases in week 51—compared to week 51 in 2017. These commodity groups included petroleum and petroleum products, coal, and chemical carloads. The commodity groups that fell compared to the same week in 2017 included metallic ores and metals, non-metallic minerals, food, and farm products excluding grain.

For the first 51 weeks of 2018, US railroad companies reported cumulative volumes of more than 13.4 million carloads—up 1.7% from the same period last year. The intermodal units totaled 14.3 million containers and trailers—up 5.5% from last year. The combined US traffic for the first 51 weeks of 2018 increased 3.6% YoY to more than 27.7 million carloads and intermodal units compared to the previous year.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Canadian railroad companies reported 4.8% YoY growth in carload traffic to 87,956 units in week 51. Intermodal traffic rose 4.4% YoY to 71,747 containers and trailers. For the first 51 weeks, Canadian railroad companies posted cumulative rail traffic growth of 3.8% YoY, which amounted to 7.7 million carloads, containers, and trailers.

Mexican railroad companies hauled 20,925 carloads, which was down 6.2% YoY, and 17,779 intermodal units, which was down 0.8% YoY, in week 51. The cumulative traffic for the first 51 weeks was ~2 million carloads, intermodal containers, and trailers, or 3.8% YoY.

Top gainers and losers

In week 51, all of the major Class I railroad companies (IYT) registered YoY growth in their rail traffic. Union Pacific (UNP) reported the highest YoY rail traffic volume increase of 7.5% among all of the Class I railroad companies in week 51. Kansas City Southern (KSU), Canadian National Railway (CNI), CSX (CSX), BNSF Railway, Norfolk Southern (NSC), and Canadian Pacific (CP) followed with YoY gains of 7.2%, 5.9%, 5.1%, 3.3%, 3%, and 0.1%, respectively.

Next, we’ll discuss Union Pacific’s rail traffic.

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