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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / CN posts slight quarterly traffic gain while other big systems see volume declines

CN posts slight quarterly traffic gain while other big systems see volume declines

By Bill Stephens | July 11, 2022

Given service woes and volume declines vs. a year ago, the second quarter of 2022 was one the railroads would rather forget

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Locomotive with red nose passes under signal bridge
Locomotive with red nose passes under signal bridge
CN train 148 arrives in Sarnia, Ontario, on June 5, 2022, after crossing the border from Port Huron, Mich., with C40-8 No. 2131 in the lead. (Stephen C. Host)

Canadian National was the only one of the big six railroads to gain traffic in 2022’s second quarter.

CN’s traffic was up 0.4%, essentially flat compared to last year’s second quarter. CSX Transportation was flat, too, but its volume was down 0.1%.

Canadian Pacific’s traffic was down 1.5%. Union Pacific’s declined 2% for the quarter, while Norfolk Southern’s volume was down 3.3%.

BNSF Railway’s volume declined the most for the quarter, with traffic down 5.6%, largely due to an 8.5% drop in intermodal.

Only two railroads – CP and CSX – saw their intermodal volume rise for the quarter. CP was up 9.1%, while CSX’s intermodal volume grew 0.9%.

Coal volume was down on all of the railroads except CN, which saw a 30% increase, and UP, which notched a 1% gain.

Through the first six months of the year only Union Pacific is in positive territory. Its traffic was up 1% through week 26, according to Association of American Railroads data. CSX was down 1.3%, while CN was down 2.7%, CP and NS were both off by 4%, and BNSF is down by 4.7%.

Overall, U.S. and Canadian rail volume declined 2.6% for the second quarter and 3.8% for the first six months of the year, according to the AAR. Intermodal was down 3.9% in the second quarter and is off by 5.9% for the year to date.

Compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, U.S. carload volume is down 8.5% for the first half of 2022. Over the same period, U.S. intermodal volume is down just 0.7%.

The AAR says the carload decline is driven by four commodities: Coal, automotive-related carloads, petroleum products, and frac sand.

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