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Weak Intermodal Volumes Drag US Railroad Companies’ Traffic Down


Apr. 22 2019, Published 1:04 p.m. ET

Rail traffic fell

On April 17, the Association of American Railroads reported that overall traffic volumes for US railroad companies (IYT) had fallen 1.2% in Week 15, which ended on April 13. These companies hauled 528,167 units compared to the 534,582 units they moved in the same week last year.

Weak intermodal volumes led to a decline in overall rail traffic. US railroad companies’ intermodal traffic fell 3.2% YoY (year-over-year) to 267,367 containers and trailers.

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However, these companies recorded YoY improvements in their carload traffic during Week 15. Their carload traffic inched up 1% YoY to 260,800 railcars in Week 15 with volume increases in three out of ten commodity groups: coal, chemicals, and petroleum and petroleum products. These companies recorded volume declines across the grain, nonmetallic minerals, and motor vehicles and parts categories.

In the first 15 weeks of 2019, US railroad companies’ cumulative volumes fell 2.8% YoY to ~3.71 million carloads, and their intermodal volumes fell 0.8% YoY to ~4 million containers and trailers. Combined rail traffic plunged 1.8% YoY to ~7.71 million carloads and intermodal units.

Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Traffic at Canadian railroad companies increased 4.5% YoY to 158,824 units. Carload traffic at these companies remained flat YoY at 84,785 railcars in Week 15. Their intermodal traffic rose 10.2% YoY to 74,039 containers and trailers.

The overall rail traffic of Mexican railroad companies plunged 12.6% YoY in Week 15 to 33,776 carloads and intermodal units. These companies’ carload traffic fell 10.3% YoY to 18,792 units, and their intermodal volumes declined 15.3% YoY to 14,984 railcars.

Class I railroad companies’ performances

Class I railroad companies saw mixed performances in Week 15, with four reporting volume declines and three reporting improvements. BNSF Railway was the worst performer, with its traffic falling 3.3%, followed by Kansas City Southern’s (KSU), Union Pacific’s (UNP), and Norfolk Southern’s (NSC) falls of 2%, 0.8%, and 0.6%, respectively.

Among the gainers, Canadian National Railway (CNI) reported the highest increase of 5.7%, followed by Canadian Pacific (CP) and CSX (CSX) with improvements of 0.7% and 0.3%, respectively.


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