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Downtrend in US Rail Traffic Persisted for Eighth Straight Week


Mar. 25 2019, Published 1:37 p.m. ET

US rail traffic fell again

In Week 11, US railroad companies continued to report weak rail traffic performances for the eighth consecutive week. On March 20, the Association of American Railroads stated that overall rail traffic volumes for US railroad companies (IYT) had fallen 6.8% in Week 11, which ended on March 16, 2019.

These companies, which have been experiencing declining trends in their traffic volumes since the beginning of February, hauled 500,001 railcars in Week 11.

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US railroad companies recorded volume declines across both carloads and intermodal units. Carload traffic fell 8.8% YoY (year-over-year) to 240,317 railcars in Week 11. These companies reported volume declines across eight out of ten commodity groups, including grain, coal, and nonmetallic minerals. They recorded volume gains in petroleum and petroleum products and motor vehicles and parts.

In the first 11 weeks of 2019, US railroad companies reported cumulative volumes of ~2.72 million carloads—down 1.7% from the same period last year. Their intermodal units fell 0.8% to ~2.94 million containers and trailers. Combined US traffic fell 1.3% YoY to ~5.66 million carloads and intermodal units in the first 11 weeks of 2019.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Carload traffic of Canadian railroad companies inched down 0.1% YoY to 79,303 units in Week 11. However, intermodal traffic increased by 1.9% YoY to 69,935 containers and trailers. Cumulative rail traffic for these companies inched up 0.9% YoY to 149,238 railcars in Week 11.

Mexican railroad companies’ cumulative traffic for Week 11 fell 3.3% to 38,769 carloads, intermodal containers, and trailers. Intermodal traffic plunged 10% YoY to 16,510 units, while carloads increased 2.4% to 22,259 railcars.

Mixed results from Class I railroad companies

In Week 11, four of the seven major Class I railroad companies’ rail traffic decreased YoY. Canadian National Railway (CNI), CSX (CSX), and Norfolk Southern (NSC) were the only three gainers. They registered 1.7%, 1%, and 0.3% respective rises in their rail traffic volumes.

BNSF Railway performed the worst with a volume decline of 13.5%. Union Pacific’s (UNP), Canadian Pacific’s (CP), and Kansas City Southern’s (KSU) rail traffic fell 9.4%, 5.6%, and 0.2%, respectively, in the week.


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