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Railway carloadings, October 2023

Released: 2023-12-18

Railway carloadings, total tonnage

32.6 million metric tonnes

October 2023

-1.3% decrease

(12-month change)

Highlights

In October, the volume of freight carried by Canadian railways amounted to 32.6 million tonnes, down 1.3% from October 2022 levels, marking the sixth straight month of year-over-year decline. Increases in loadings of potash and some energy products helped to offset a steep decline in grain shipments.

Despite the overall decline, total freight carried approached the five-year average of 33.3 million tonnes for October.

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

The decline in total freight carried in October reflected a lower volume of domestic traffic, both non-intermodal loadings (mainly commodities) and intermodal loadings (mainly containers).

Grains lead decline

Non-intermodal freight loadings in Canada decreased for the second month in a row, down 1.7% year over year to 26.1 million tonnes in October, led by sharp declines in some agricultural products—in particular, grains.

With Canada's production of principal field crops decreasing during the 2023 crop year due to less favourable growing conditions in Western Canada, grain shipments by rail were down sharply in October. For example, after a year of substantial year-over-year monthly increases, loadings of canola declined for the first time—dropping 34.6% (-530 000 tonnes) from October 2022.

Similarly, loadings of wheat fell year over year for the second consecutive month, down 17.4% (-511 000 tonnes) in October, the largest monthly decrease in tonnage since June 2022.

These declines in carloadings of grain mirror the October decrease in Canadian exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, as reported in Statistics Canada's international trade data, released earlier this month.

Year over year, other significant decreases were also reported in wood pulp, with loadings falling 23.1% (-119 000 tonnes) below October 2022 levels and fuel oils and crude petroleum, down 115 000 tonnes over the same period.

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

Potash and coal temper overall decline

Several commodities registered large increases, partly offsetting the declines in loadings noted above. Potash led the way, with loadings rising by 30.0% (+513 000 tonnes) from October 2022, the third month of increase in a row.

Loadings of some energy products also increased in October. Loadings of coal rose 11.3% (+324 000 tonnes) year over year, while loadings of other refined petroleum and coal products (e.g., propane and butane) were 19.4% (+113 000 tonnes) above October 2022 levels.

Domestic intermodal traffic down again

In October, intermodal shipments—mainly containers—originating in Canada fell 7.0% year over year to 3.0 million tonnes, the 11th consecutive decline and the lowest volume recorded for the month of October in over five years. Recently, the Canadian international merchandise trade program reported imports of consumer goods were down 8.8% year over year in October.

American freight up for the third month in a row

In October, freight traffic arriving from the United States remained well above the volume of previous years for the third consecutive month, up 7.2% year over year to 3.6 million tonnes—the third highest volume recorded for the month of October in the last 10 years.

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  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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