Oil, grain turn in better week as GM shutdowns loom for 2019

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
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GM’s planned plant closings shadowed already-declining shipments of vehicles moving by rail in the U.S. despite a bounceback by commodities in the latest week’s data.

The Association of American Railroads said U.S. rail traffic for the week ending November 24 was 470,851 carloads and intermodal units, up 3% compared with the same week in 2017.

Volume totaled 232,954 carloads, up 1.7% on-year, while intermodal volume was 237,897 containers and trailers, up 4.3%.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase from a year ago. Petroleum again led all gainers at 39.7%, followed by grain, 7.3%, and chemicals, 3.1%.

Commodity decliners included nonmetallic minerals, 11%; farm products excluding grain, and food, 3.2%, and motor vehicles, 1.4%.

General Motors on November 26 said it planned to close three North American assembly plants, in Ontario, Canada; Detroit, and Lordstown, Ohio. Vehicles account for approximately 5% of total rail volumes and 8% of total rail revenue. Analysts say the closures could affect 1-2% of CSX and Norfolk Southern automotive volumes in 2019.

For the first 47 weeks of 2018, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,343,939 carloads, up 1.8%, and 13,083,203 intermodal units, up 5.6%. Total combined traffic was 25,427,142 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.7% on-year.

North American volume for the week ending November 24 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 336,379 carloads, up 2.3%, and 324,042 intermodal units, up 3.8%. Total combined traffic was 660,421 carloads and intermodal units, up 3%. North American volume for the first 47 weeks of 2018 was 34,355,400 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.4% on 2017.

Canadian railroads reported 84,509 carloads for the week, up 7.8%, and 68,592 intermodal units, up 4.6%. For the first 47 weeks of this year, cumulative traffic of 7,107,185 carloads, containers and trailers was ahead by 3.9%.

Mexican railroads reported 18,916 carloads for the week, off 11.2%, 17,553 intermodal units, down 5.8%. Cumulative volume for the first 47 weeks of 2018 was 1,821,073 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.

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