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Railway carloadings, July 2023

Released: 2023-09-25

Railway carloadings, total tonnage

28.9 million metric tonnes

July 2023

-5.1% decrease

(12-month change)

Highlights

In July, the volume of cargo carried by Canadian railways totalled 28.9 million tonnes, down 5.1% from July 2022 levels, marking the third straight month of year-over-year decline.

In July 2023, the overall freight volume was below the five-year average of 31.1 million tonnes for the month of July. Shipments of containers, potash and some energy products led the year-over-year decline in July, due in part to a labour dispute during the month at Canada's west coast ports.

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

Traffic down in the West

In July 2023, there was a labour disruption that affected British Columbia marine terminals, including the Port of Vancouver. Volume declines in western Canada accounted for almost two-thirds (65.7%) of the total year-over-year decrease in rail freight during the month.

Intermodal traffic leads decline

In July, intermodal shipments—mainly containers—originating from Canada led the overall decline in freight transported by rail, dropping by 24.0% year over year to reach 2.3 million tonnes, the lowest level for this month in over 10 years.

The strike at British Columbia marine terminals halted container traffic in and out of the ports. Indeed, Canada's imports of consumer goods were down year over year by 9.3% in July, according to Canadian international merchandise trade.

Potash down for the fourth month

Non-intermodal freight loadings—mainly commodities—fell for the third month in a row, edging down 1.1% year over year to 23.1 million tonnes in July.

Loadings of potash posted a year-over-year decline for a fourth straight month, falling 19.2% (-400 000 tonnes) from July 2022. This latest downturn was caused by production curtailments at a mine site in Saskatchewan in response to a work stoppage at a large west coast potash terminal in the Port of Vancouver.

Loadings of some energy products declined in July 2023. Carloadings of fuel oils and crude petroleum, down year over year each month since June 2022, dropped 26.7% (-292 000 tonnes) compared with July 2022, while other refined petroleum and coal products (e.g., propane and butane) were down 14.5% (-108 000 tonnes), the fifth month of decline in a row.

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

Canola and wheat loadings remain strong

Partly offsetting the above-noted declines in non-intermodal rail shipments were large increases in grains.

Grain shipments by rail continue to reflect a bumper harvest from the more favourable growing conditions across the Prairies last year. For example, carloadings of canola rose year over year for the 10th straight month in July, up by 505 000 tonnes—or more than 3 times the volume in July 2022.

Similarly, loadings of wheat posted a year-over-year increase for the 11th consecutive month, up 18.9% (+303 000 tonnes) compared with July 2022, while loadings of fresh, chilled or dried vegetables increased sharply by 103.2% (+86 000 tonnes) from July 2022 levels.

American freight continues to decline

In July 2023, freight traffic arriving from the United States remained well below the volume posted in the previous year for the 11th month in a row. Tonnage decreased by 13.8% year over year to 3.5 million tonnes—the lowest level in four years for the month of July.

  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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