Railway carloadings, August 2022
31.0 million metric tonnes
In August, Canadian railways transported 31.0 million tonnes of freight, up 2.4% from August 2021 levels, marking the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year increase.
The overall freight volume was just under the five-year average of 31.4 million tonnes for the month. Higher carloadings of certain energy products as well as some other commodities more than offset a sharp year-over-year drop in fuel oils and crude petroleum as well as ongoing declines in grain.
To further explore current and historical data in an interactive format, please visit the Monthly Railway Carloadings: Interactive Dashboard.
August's total tonnage increase in freight carried reflected higher volumes across all types of rail operations.
Overall commodity movements up
Non-intermodal rail freight increased for the fourth consecutive month in August, up 2.7% year over year to 24.0 million tonnes, led by large increases in carloadings of some energy-based products. With the global search for energy options, loadings of other refined petroleum and coal products (e.g., propane, butane) continued on a 17-month growth trend, rising 60.0% (+255 000 tonnes) year over year in August, following strong gains in July (+88.6%) and June (+71.5%).
Similarly, loadings of coal posted a year-over-year increase for the seventh month in a row, up 5.4% (+181 000 tonnes) from August 2021, following a sharp increase in July (+39.2%). With high gas prices and energy supply constraints in Europe because of the war in Ukraine, the demand for coal has been strengthening.
These movements in rail carloadings mirror the year-over-year increase in Canadian exports of energy products in August, as reported in Canadian international merchandise trade, released earlier in October.
In addition, loadings of potash, on an upward trend since April, rose 7.3% (+142 000 tonnes) in August compared with the same month in 2021, following a large increase in July (+22.3%).
Other significant increases were also reported for lumber, with loadings increasing by 15.0% (+113 000 tonnes) year over year in August, a second consecutive increase.
Finally, loadings of freight motor vehicles, such as tanker-trailers and flatbed trucks, were 114.7% (+94 000 tonnes) above August 2021 levels, marking the seventh consecutive month of year-over-year increase in tonnage.
Fuel oils and crude petroleum down for the third consecutive month
Moderating the increase in non-intermodal freight loadings were large declines in several commodities. Fuel oil and crude petroleum led the way in August, with loadings dropping by 26.5% (-358 000 tonnes) from August 2021, the third consecutive monthly decline. With lower prices for crude energy products in August, rail became a less viable option than pipeline for transporting crude oil.
Rail carloadings of some agricultural products, especially grain, continued to decline year over year in August, down 19.2% (-262 000 tonnes). While carloadings of wheat have declined year over year for 16 straight months, August was the second smallest tonnage decline.
Likewise, loadings of other cereal grains fell 24.1% (-62 000 tonnes) compared with August 2021, marking the 11th consecutive year-over-year decline. Meanwhile, loadings of fresh, chilled or dried vegetables decreased for the second month in a row, down 19.2% (-87 000 tonnes) from August 2021.
In August, lower Canadian grain traffic continued to reflect reduced supplies, attributable to the drought across the Prairies in summer 2021. However, carloadings of grain are expected to ramp up over the coming months, as crop production estimates for 2022 suggest a bumper crop year is in store.
Finally, loadings of other chemical products and preparations declined for the 11th consecutive month in August, down 69.2% (-116 000 tonnes) from the same month a year earlier, following substantial year-over-year declines in July (-69.7%) and June (-62.1%).
Intermodal traffic remains up
In August, intermodal shipments—mainly containers—originating in Canada increased for the second consecutive month, edging up 2.3% year over year to 3.3 million tonnes, the highest volume ever recorded for the month.
It appears that higher imports of consumer goods for inventory replenishment helped boost intermodal rail freight. As reported earlier in Canadian international merchandise trade, Canada's imports of consumer goods posted a year-over-year increase of 17.1% in August.
American freight up again
Loadings from American railways edged up 0.5% to 3.8 million tonnes in August compared with the same month a year earlier, the third highest traffic level on record for the month.
Note to readers
The Monthly Railway Carloadings Survey collects data on the number of rail cars, tonnage, units and 20-feet equivalent units from railway transporters operating in Canada that provide for-hire freight services.
Cargo loadings from Armstrong, Ontario to the Atlantic coast are classified to the eastern division (eastern Canada), while loadings from Thunder Bay, Ontario to the Pacific coast are classified to the western division (western Canada).
Survey data are revised on a monthly basis to reflect new information.
The data in this release are not seasonally adjusted.
The Transportation Data and Information Hub provides Canadians with online access to comprehensive statistics and measures on the country's transportation sector.
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