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Railway carloadings, January 2023

Released: 2023-03-31

Railway carloadings, total tonnage

31.7 million metric tonnes

January 2023

18.7% increase

(12-month change)

Highlights

In January, the volume of freight carried by Canadian railways reached 31.7 million tonnes, up 18.7% from January 2022 levels, marking the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year increases.

Canadian grain shipments were the largest contributor to the year-over-year increase in January 2023, partly reflecting lower volumes in January 2022 attributable to the drought across the Prairies in the summer of 2021.

The overall freight volume was much higher than normal for this time of year, exceeding the five-year monthly average of 30.4 million tonnes.

To further explore current and historical data in an interactive format, please visit the "Monthly Railway Carloadings: Interactive Dashboard."

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

January's growth in total freight carried was entirely driven by domestic non-intermodal loadings (mainly commodities), as intermodal loadings (mainly containers) and freight traffic from connections with American railways both fell.

Grain carloadings continue to surge

Non-intermodal freight loadings in Canada continued their nine-month growth trend, rising 26.9% year over year to 25.6 million tonnes in January. While the growth was widespread among commodities, it was driven by increases in agricultural and food products―especially grain.

Grain shipments by rail reflected a rebound in Canadian grain production with more favourable growing conditions across the Prairies in 2022. For example, carloadings of wheat surged by 108.3% (+1 221 000 tonnes) in January 2023 compared with January 2022, after posting substantial gains in December (+93.4%) and November (+89.8%).

Likewise, loadings of canola grew 91.1% (+398 000 tonnes) in January 2023 compared with January 2022, while loadings of other cereal grains were up 144.9% (+310 000 tonnes).

These rail movements mirror the January 2023 increase in Canada's exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, as reported in the Canadian international merchandise trade released earlier in March of this year.

Other significant increases were reported for iron ores and concentrates, with loadings rising by 19.4% (+799 000 tonnes) year over year in January, while loadings of coal increased sharply by 29.5% (+753 000 tonnes) from January 2022.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Railway carloadings, largest commodity differences, January 2022 to January 2023
Railway carloadings, largest commodity differences, January 2022 to January 2023

Some commodities remain down

Fuel oils and crude petroleum led the declines, with loadings dipping by 10.7% (-112 000 tonnes) year over year in January, representing their eighth consecutive month of decline. Loadings of lumber followed suit, down 10.7% (-79 000 tonnes) compared with January 2022, the fourth consecutive month of decline.

In addition, loadings of iron and steel, primary or semi-finished were down 5.2% (-23 000 tonnes) from January 2022. Finally, loadings of other chemical products and preparations fell 17.9% (-20 000 tonnes) year over year in January 2023, while loadings of nickel ores and concentrates were down 18.5% (-13 000 tonnes) from January 2022 levels.

Intermodal traffic down again

Domestic intermodal shipments—mainly containers—declined for the second consecutive month in January, edging down 1.1% year over year to 2.8 million tonnes.

American freight continues to trend down

In January, freight traffic from US rail connections declined year over year for the fifth consecutive month, falling by about 414 000 tonnes to reach 3.3 million tonnes in January, a decline of 11.1%.

  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.

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; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

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