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Weak Carload Performance Hurt UNP’s Rail Traffic in Week 5

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Rail traffic decline

After registering strong rail traffic volume growth in the first four weeks of 2019, Union Pacific (UNP) reported a decline in the fifth week. 

The company’s total rail traffic fell 4.8% YoY (year-over-year) to 163,450 railcars from 171,738 railcars in Week 5 of 2018.

Union Pacific’s dismal rail traffic performance in Week 5 was mainly due to a 7.2% drop in its carloads. In the fifth week, the US railroad company hauled 89,536 railcars compared to the 96,497 it moved in Week 5 of 2018.

Commodities excluding coal and coke, which accounted for 76% of Union Pacific’s Week 5 carload traffic, fell 6% YoY to 67,992 units from 72,309 units. Its coal and coke volumes plunged 10.9% YoY to 21,544 units from 24,188 units.

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The company’s volumes declined across the majority of commodity groups. The company recorded double-digit volume gains across the farm, nonmetallic minerals, forest, petroleum, and metal commodity products. Grain, coal, coke, motor vehicles and equipment, crushed stones, and food commodity products registered double-digit volume declines in the week.

During the week, all Class I railroad companies reported YoY declines in carload traffic except Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), which registered YoY growth of 2%. Norfolk Southern (NSC) reported the highest fall of 14% in carload volumes.

Intermodal units

Union Pacific’s intermodal units inched down 1.8% YoY to 73,914 containers and trailers from 75,241 units. Its container volumes declined 2.2% YoY to 70,335 units from 71,953 units, while its trailer traffic grew 8.9% YoY to 3,579 units from 3,288 units.

During the fifth week, all Class I railroad companies (IYT) reported YoY falls in their intermodal units, but Union Pacific’s volume decline was the smallest among them. CSX (CSX) reported the highest YoY fall of 17.8%.

For the first five weeks of 2019, Union Pacific reported cumulative volumes of 450,527 carloads, up 0.9% from the same period last year. Its intermodal units surged 9% YoY to 374,223 containers and trailers. Its combined rail traffic in the first five weeks of 2019 grew 4.4% YoY to 824,750 carloads and intermodal units compared to the previous year.

Next, we’ll take a look at Canadian Pacific’s rail traffic performance in Week 5.

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