Rail cargo volume drops in October

by Canadian Shipper

OTTAWA, Ont. — The volume of cargo carried by Canadian railways fell in October, as both commodity loadings in Canada as well as traffic received from the US declined.


The report, produced by Statistics Canada, showed total freight traffic originating in Canada and received from the US fell to 24.5 million metric tonnes in October, down 9.7% from October 2008.


Compared with October 2008, freight loaded in Canada fell 5.4% to 22.5 million metric tonnes in October. The Canadian railway industry’s core transportation systems, non-intermodal and intermodal, both contributed to the drop in cargo loaded, according to the report.


Non-intermodal freight loadings, which are typically carried in bulk or loaded in box cars, declined 4.9% to 20.3 million metric tonnes. The decrease was the result of reduced loadings in the majority of the commodity groups carried by the railways. The commodity groups with the largest declines in tonnage were potash, lumber, nickel ores and concentrates, iron and steel (primary or semi-finished) and newsprint.


Despite these declines, there were several commodity groups that registered strong gains. Loadings of coal led the pack, rising 12.2% to 3.1 million metric tonnes, followed by gains in several agricultural related commodity groups including colza seeds (canola), other oil seeds and nuts and other agricultural products, and wheat.


Intermodal freight loadings, transported through containers and trailers loaded onto flat cars, decreased 10.3% to 2.2 million metric tonnes in October, compared with the same month the previous year.

Rail freight traffic coming from the US fell to about 2.0 million metric tonnes, down 40.4% from October 2008. Both non-intermodal and intermodal freight transported from the US contributed to the decline.


From a geographic perspective, 56.0% of the overall volume of cargo loaded by Canadian railways was in the Western Division of Canada, with the remainder loaded in the Eastern Division. The Eastern and Western Divisions, for statistical purposes, are separated by an imaginary line running from Thunder Bay to Armstrong, Ont. Freight loaded at Thunder Bay is included in the Western Division while loadings at Armstrong are reported in the Eastern Division.

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