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US Rail Traffic Downtrend Continued for a Second Consecutive Week


Feb. 8 2019, Published 9:57 a.m. ET

US rail traffic slumped

Freight traffic for US railroad companies fell for the second consecutive week, according to weekly data compiled by the AAR (Association of American Railroads). 

On February 6, the AAR revealed that overall rail traffic volumes for US rail carriers (IYT) had fallen 9.1% in Week 5 of 2019, which ended on February 2. The fall in Week 5 traffic was even steeper than US railroad companies’ 4% plunge in the fourth week.

These railroad companies hauled 498,288 railcars in the week. Their carload traffic dropped 8.4% YoY to 242,718 units, and their intermodal traffic fell 9.6% YoY to 255,570 units.

Eight out of ten carload commodity groups, including nonmetallic minerals, grains, and coal, reported falls in the week compared to Week 5 of 2018. Only the miscellaneous and petroleum and petroleum products commodity groups posted strong double-digit growth in their respective carload traffic.

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For the first five weeks of 2019, US railroad companies reported cumulative volumes of ~1.24 million carloads, up 1.7% from the same period last year. Their intermodal units inched up 0.5% to ~1.32 million containers and trailers. Combined US traffic for the first five weeks of 2019 increased 1.1% YoY to ~2.55 million carloads and intermodal units.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Canadian railroad companies’ carload traffic fell 2.2% YoY to 76,671 units in Week 5. Moreover, their intermodal traffic plunged 12% YoY to 62,070 containers and trailers. The cumulative rail traffic of Canadian railroad companies fell 6.9% YoY to 138,741 railcars in the fifth week of 2019.

The downtrend in Mexican railroad companies continued in Week 5, with carload traffic decreasing 13.1% to 18,263 and intermodal volumes plunging 28.3% to 12,229. These companies’ cumulative traffic for Week 5 fell 19.9% to 30,492 carloads, intermodal containers, and trailers.

Traffic decreased for all Class I railroad companies

In Week 5, all major Class I railroad companies’ rail traffic decreased YoY. Norfolk Southern (NSC) and CSX (CSX) were the worst performers, registering volume declines of 11.9% each. Canadian National Railway (CNI), BNSF Railway, Kansas City Southern (KSU), Union Pacific (UNP), and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) reported traffic declines of 11.8%, 11.6%, 6.9%, 4.8%, and 2%, respectively.

In this series, we’ll look at all listed Class I railroad companies’ rail traffic performances. We’ll start with Norfolk Southern.


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