Houston — US railroads originated 98,405 coal carloads during the week ended April 25, a decrease of 7% week over week and a drop of 13.3% compared with the year-ago week, according to data released Wednesday by the Association of American Railroads.
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It was the fourth week this year that coal carload volumes fell below 100,000 and the second time volumes dipped that low in back-to-back weeks. Coal carloads totaled a year-low 96,096 for the week ending February 21 then reached 99,521 for the week ending February 28. Last week, carload totals were 99,482.
There were no weeks of sub-100,000 coal carload volumes last year, and in 2013 there were only three weeks of sub-100,000 totals.
The last time coal carload volumes dipped below 100,000 for two straight weeks before it happened this year was 1993, the AAR said.
Overall US rail traffic totaled 557,306 cars, an 874-carload increase from last week. Coal carloads made up 17.7% of all traffic.
Year-to-date US coal carload originations total 1,693,078, down 4.8% compared with the same period last year.
Canadian railroads -- which include the US operations of Canadian National, which serves several mines in the Illinois Basin, and Canadian Pacific -- originated 8,012 coal carloads, an 8.3% increase from last week's year-low total of 7,398 but a 21.2% decrease from the same week last year. Year to date, coal carloads are down 5.6%.
UNION PACIFIC POSTS NEW YEAR-LOW COAL COUNT
For the week, coal carloads for the four largest US railroads, which include originations and interchange movements, were down, with Union Pacific posting its lowest weekly volumes of the year.
Union Pacific reported a year-low 22,214 coal carloads, a 1.7% drop from last week, which at the time was its lowest volume of the year. The latest count was a 25.8% drop from the year-ago week.
Coal volumes have declined 10 of the last 12 weeks on the railroad and the last four weeks featured its four lowest coal carload totals of the year. Coal made up 12.6% of all weekly traffic for the railroad. Year over year, coal volumes are down 10.8%.
Norfolk Southern reported 21,454 coal carloads, a 1.2% week-over-week decrease and a drop of 18.4% compared with the year-ago week. Coal made up 14.2% of all traffic for the week.
It was the third week-over-week decline in coal volumes in the last nine weeks for the railroad.
Year to date, coal carloads are down 11.7% on Norfolk Southern rails, the most of the four main railroads.
BNSF reported 44,038 weekly coal carloads, down 0.4% from the prior week and 2.2% from the year-ago week. Coal volumes, which made up 21.8% of all traffic, have decreased seven of the last nine weeks for the railroad.
Year to date, coal shipments are up 5.9% for BNSF, the only major US railroad with an overall increase in coal shipments in 2015.
CSX reported 20,439 coal carloads, a 6% drop from the previous week and a 14.4% decrease from the year-ago week. Coal made up 14.9% of all traffic, which was at a year-high volume of 137,418 cars.
Coal shipments have dropped five of the last seven weeks for CSX and are down 7.6% year to date.