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Week 49: US Rail Freight Traffic Growth Rebounded

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US rail traffic

On December 13, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) released its rail freight traffic data for Week 49, which ended on December 8. The AAR compiles the weekly rail data received from 12 major US, Canadian, and Mexican railroad companies. The weekly rail traffic figures are segregated into carload traffic and intermodal units.

In Week 49, US rail carriers (XLI) reported a 3.1% YoY (year-over-year) rise in overall rail traffic volumes. Volumes rebounded drastically from the second-slowest growth in 2018 of 0.4%, which was recorded just one week earlier. Railroad companies carried 570,225 railcars during the week. Their carload traffic increased 0.3% YoY to 267,000 units from 266,201 units. Their intermodal traffic rose 5.7% YoY to 303,225 units from 286,873 units.

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Five out of the ten carload commodity groups reported increases in the week compared to Week 49 of 2017. These commodity groups included petroleum and petroleum products, miscellaneous products, and metallic ore carloads. The commodity groups that fell compared to the same week in 2017 included nonmetallic minerals, coal, and grain.

For the first 49 weeks of 2018, US railroad companies reported cumulative volumes of more than 12.9 million carloads—up 1.7% from the same period last year. Their intermodal units totaled 13.7 million containers and trailers—up 5.5% from last year. The combined US traffic for the first 49 weeks of 2018 increased 3.6% YoY to more than 26.6 million carloads and intermodal units compared to the previous year.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Canadian railroad companies reported 0.1% YoY growth in carload traffic to 82,129 units in Week 49. Intermodal traffic rose 4.7% YoY to 73,115 containers and trailers. For the first 49 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroad companies posted cumulative rail traffic growth of 3.8% YoY, which amounted to 7.4 million carloads, containers, and trailers.

Mexican railroad companies hauled 21,148 carloads (down 3% YoY) and 19,114 intermodal units (up 5% YoY) in Week 49. The cumulative traffic for the first 49 weeks was more than 1.9 million carloads, intermodal containers, and trailers.

Top gainers and losers

In Week 49, all major railroad companies registered YoY growth in their respective rail traffic. Kansas City Southern (KSU) reported the highest YoY rail traffic volume increase of 6.7% among all of the Class I railroad companies in Week 49. Union Pacific (UNP), Norfolk Southern (NSC), Canadian National Railway (CNI), CSX Corporation (CSX), BNSF Railway, and Canadian Pacific (CP) followed with YoY gains of 5.7%, 3.3%, 2.6%, 2.3%, 1.7%, and 1.5%, respectively.

Next, we’ll discuss Kansas City Southern.

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