KANSAS CITY — Railroad performance in placement of cars at origins continued to be an issue across most of the United States, millers and traders said last week.
Meanwhile the rail freight market strengthened, and the BNSF railroad withdrew its shuttle offers, a trader said.
In the week ended April 10, total US weekly rail traffic was 513,724 carloads and intermodal units, up 25% compared with the same week in 2020, according to the American Association of Railroads.
Carloads for the week totaled 233,300, up 17% compared with the same week last year, while US weekly intermodal volume was 280,424 containers and trailers, up 31% compared to 2020.
In comments accompanying the report, the AAR noted percentage changes compared with the same week in 2020 are inflated for some rail traffic categories, because of the widespread shutdowns and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes that impacted many economic sectors a year ago at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020. Grain carloads in the week totaled 24,347, up 10% year-over-year, bringing cumulative 2021 grain carloads to 353,484 for an average of 25,249 per week, up 24% from the same period in 2020.
Canadian railroads, including US operations of Canadian Pacific and CN, reported 79,509 carloads in the week ended April 10, up 8%, and 75,499 intermodal units, up 14% compared with the same week in 2020. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 12,275, up 14% over the same week in 2020, bringing the 2021 cumulative total to 144,018 for a weekly average of 10,287, up 35% from the same period last year.
Mexican railroads, including US operations of GMXT, reported 20,421 carloads in the week ended April 10, up 39% compared with the same week last year. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 1,482, down 41% from the same week in 2020. Grain and “other” were the only carload commodity groups to decrease year-over-year. Cumulative Mexican grain carloads for 2021 rose to 25,923 for an average of 1,852 per week, a 16% decline compared with the same period last year.
North American rail volume for the week ended April 10 on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 333,230 carloads, up 16% from the same week in 2020, and 372,251 intermodal units, up 28% compared with last year.
North American grain carloads in the week totaled 38,104, up 8% year-over-year, bringing cumulative 2021 grain carloads on the continent to 523,425 for an average of 37,388 per week, an increase of 24% over the same period in 2020.
In the week ended April 1, the average April shuttle railcar bids-offers per car were $204 above tariff in the secondary market, the USDA’s Agricultural Market Service said in its weekly Grain Transportation Update. This was $186 more than the prior week and $248 more than the same week a year earlier. There were no non-shuttle bids-offers that week.
Grain movement by barge totaled 776,008 tons in the week ended April 3, down 9% from the previous week, but 51% higher compared with the same period in 2020, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In the same week, 497 grain barges moved down river, 29 fewer barges than the previous week, the Corps and AMS said. There were 699 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 12% more than the previous week.
For the week ended April 1, 38 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf, a 41% increase compared with the same period in 2020. In the 10 days beginning April 2, 45 vessels were expected to be loaded at the Gulf, a 5% increase compared with the same period last year, the AMS said.
The rate for shipping one tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan was $61.50 on April 1, unchanged from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $36 per tonne, unchanged from the previous week.
The average US diesel fuel price in the week ended April 5 decreased 1.7¢ from the previous week to $3.144 per gallon, 59.6¢ above the same week in 2020, the US Department of Energy said.
The highest on-highway diesel fuel price in the week was California at $3.981 per gallon, the Energy Information Administration said. The lowest, and only region below $3, was the Gulf Coast at $2.934 per gallon. The per-gallon diesel average of three East Coast sub-regions was $3.114. A gallon on average cost $3.083 in the Midwest; $3.279 in the Rocky Mountain region; and $3.653 on the West Coast, including California.