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Railway carloadings, December 2019

Released: 2020-02-26

Railway carloadings, total tonnage

32.4 million tonnes

December 2019

-0.8% decrease

(12-month change)

Canadian railways transported 32.4 million tonnes of freight in December, down slightly (-0.8%) from December 2018. This marked the fourth consecutive month of a year-over-year decline and the first decrease reported for the month of December in 10 years.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Railway carloadings, total tonnage shipped
Railway carloadings, total tonnage shipped

The non-intermodal operations accounted for all of the decline, decreasing 3.8% year over year to 26.1 million tonnes. Loadings of iron ores and concentrates (-14.6% or -751 000 tonnes) were down sharply, reflecting (among other factors) lingering production disruptions at a Quebec-Labrador mine from a temporary shutdown in mid-September.

Compared with December 2018, loadings of wheat (-14.0% or -319 000 tonnes) posted the second largest decline in tonnage. Loadings of potash (-15.6% or -313 000 tonnes) declined year over year for the sixth month in a row, still reflecting production cutbacks and a temporary shutdown of a number of mine sites due to weak global demand. Significant decreases were also reported in other chemical products and preparations (-45.2% or -135 000 tonnes).

Partly offsetting these declines were increases in loadings of coal (+12.0% or +347 000 tonnes), canola (+19.0% or +167 000 tonnes), other cereal grains (+27.1% or +130 000 tonnes), other oil seeds and nuts and other agricultural products (+57.9% or +117 000 tonnes) and fuel oil and crude petroleum (+4.5% or +97 000 tonnes). Indeed, the increase in December grain shipments may be an effort to clear a backlog following Canadian railway labour disruptions during November 2019.

Despite the overall decline in freight volume, intermodal traffic remained steady, rising 1.7% from the same period in 2018 to 2.9 million tonnes in December. Freight traffic coming from US rail connections rose significantly by 26.7% to 3.3 million tonnes.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Railway carloadings, top commodities shipped
Railway carloadings, top commodities shipped

  Note to readers

Data from January 2019 to the month preceding the reference period have been revised. Data in this release are not seasonally adjusted.

The Monthly Railway Carloadings Survey collects data, including the number of rail cars, tonnage, units and 20-feet equivalent units, from railway transporters operating in Canada that provide for-hire freight service.

The Transportation Data and Information Hub, a website launched by Statistics Canada and Transport Canada, provides Canadians with online access to comprehensive statistics and measures on the country's transportation sector.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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