Intermodal drove overall rail traffic
After reporting a double-digit plunge in rail traffic volumes in the fifth week of 2019, Norfolk Southern (NSC) made a strong comeback in Week 6. Along with CSX (CSX), the company was a top volume gainer among all Class I railroad companies in the week.
The company hauled 149,357 railcars during Week 6, up 3.2% from the 144,782 units it carried in the same week of last year. In the first six weeks of 2019, the company’s total rail traffic rose 2.1% YoY (year-over-year) to 860,254 railcars.
The improvement in the company’s overall traffic volumes was mainly driven by strong growth in intermodal units partially offset by a decline in carloads. Norfolk Southern’s intermodal traffic grew 6.7% YoY in Week 6 to 85,473 containers and trailers from 80,095 units. The company’s intermodal unit growth was the second highest among all Class I railroad companies after Union Pacific’s (UNP) 9% growth.
The company’s container traffic increased 5.8% YoY to 76,478 units from 72,292 units. It registered a 15.3% YoY rise in its trailer volumes to 8,995 units from 7,803 units. In the first six weeks of 2019, Norfolk Southern’s intermodal traffic increased 3% YoY to 483,196 units.
Carload traffic continues declining
Norfolk Southern’s carload traffic dropped for the third straight week in Week 6. During the week, the company’s carload traffic inched down 1.2% to 63,884 railcars from 64,687 railcars in the same week of 2018. During the first six weeks of 2019, the company moved 377,058 railcars, 1% more than it carried in the same timeframe last year.
Norfolk’s commodities excluding coal and coke, which accounted for 72% of its Week 6 carload traffic, grew 2.3% YoY to 46,249 units from 45,231 units. However, its coal and coke volumes plunged 9.4% YoY to 17,635 units from 19,456 units. The railroad company registered strong volume growth across the chemicals, grain, metals, metallic ores, and nonmetallic mineral commodity groups. The commodity groups that reported falls included farm, food, motor vehicle, and petroleum products.
During the sixth week, four out of seven Class I railroad companies (XTN) reported YoY falls in carload traffic. BNSF Railway was the worst performer, recording a 6.5% fall, while Kansas City Southern (KSU) was the top performer with an 11.4% rise.
In the next article, we’ll look at CSX’s rail traffic performance in Week 6.