According to today's USDA Grain Transportation Report, as shown in GTR fig. 2, weekly grain carloads have generally declined since late January.

According to data from the Surface Transportation Board, the seven Class I railroads originated 20,572 grain carloads in the week ending March 18—down 20-percent from the prior 5-year average for that week.

Among the Class I railroads, the biggest decline came from BNSF Railway (BNSF), which originated only 8,332 grain carloads—just over two-thirds of the previous 5-year average for the same week.

Some reductions may be due to record snow and rain totals in portions of the Western United States this winter.

Examples of weather-related impacts to the railroads include a March 15 train derailment in Arizona on BNSF’s Southern Transcon route (from Chicago to California), as well as two washouts on the BNSF mainline near Bakersfield, California.

Despite the dip in grain carloads since January, the increase in unshipped balances and large export sales to China (per previous highlight) potentially signal more car loadings in the future.