Rail freight traffic loses speed in latest week

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
grain railroad Montana BNSF

A BNSF grain train rolls through the Kootenai National Forest west of Whitefish, Mont. Railway Age photo by Bruce E. Kelly

Amid roiling markets, weaker commodities and intermodal shipments may be signaling a correction for U.S. rail freight.

The Association of American Railroads said traffic for the week ending November 17 was 546,541 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.04% from the same week a year ago. Carloads slipped 1.1% while containers and trailers were ahead by an identical 1.1%.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups were better, topped by recent leader petroleum, 24%; grain, 7.6%, and miscellaneous carloads, 1.7%.

Sliding were motor vehicles, 11.1%; nonmetallic minerals, 9.5%, and farm products excluding grain, and food, 3.7%.

For the first 46 weeks of this year, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,110,985 carloads, up 1.8%, and 12,845,306 intermodal units, up 5.6% from 2017. Total combined traffic was 24,956,291 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.7%.

North American rail volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 370,321 carloads, up 0.6%, and 370,544 intermodal units, up 0.4%. Total traffic in North America was 740,865 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.5%. Volume for the first 46 weeks was 33,694,979 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.4%.

Canadian railroads reported 86,834 carloads for the week, up 8.7%, and 69,418 intermodal units, an increase of 1.7%. For the first 46 weeks cumulative volume of 6,954,084 carloads, containers and trailers was up 3.8%.

Mexican railroads reported 20,973 carloads for the week, down 8.5%, and 17,099 intermodal units, down 14.2%. Cumulative volume for the first 46 weeks was 1,784,604 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.

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