KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — The Surface Transportation Board this month posted notice of a National Grain Car Council meeting to be held virtually via Zoom on Aug. 26 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. CDT to discuss grain transportation issues, including the railroads’ readiness to transport the 2021 grain harvest.
The meeting is open to the public, but registration is required. Interested parties should send questions and comments to Michael Small, the designated federal officer for the NGCC, at email@example.com.
The notice posted Aug. 10 said “Agenda items include the following: remarks by NGCC Chair Jarad Farmer, Board Chairman Martin J. Oberman, Board Vice Chairman and NGCC Co-Chair Robert E. Primus, and board members Ann D. Begeman, Patrick J. Fuchs, and Michelle A. Schultz; reports by member groups on expectations for the upcoming harvest, domestic and foreign markets, the supply of rail cars, and rail service; and market and industry updates. The full agenda will be posted on the board’s website.”
The NGCC was formed in 1994 by the Interstate Commerce Commission as a working group to facilitate private-sector solutions and provide recommendations to the ICC, and later the Surface Transportation Board on matters affecting rail grain car availability and transportation. Members represent grain shippers and receivers, private rail car owners, rail car manufacturers, and the Class I, II, and III railroads. More information and registration is available at the STB’s NGCC homepage, prod.stb.gov.
US weekly rail traffic in the week ended Aug. 14 totaled 504,810 carloads and intermodal units, up 1% compared with the same week last year, bringing total combined traffic for the first 32 weeks of 2021 to 16,319,848 carloads and intermodal units, up 12% compared to last year.
Included in the week were 235,011 carloads, up 6% compared with the same week in 2020, bringing cumulative 2021 carloads to 7,376,542 carloads, up 9% from the same point last year; and 269,799 containers and trailers, down 3% compared with 2020, according to the Association of American Railroads.
Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase over the same week in 2020: Chemicals (up 6%), coal (14%), forest products (7%), metallic ores and metals (30%) and nonmetallic minerals (7%). The five categories posting a year-over-year weekly decline were grain (down 13%), farm products and food excluding grain (1%), motor vehicles and parts (down 12%), petroleum and petroleum products (5%), and other (2%).
US grain carloads in the week totaled 19,488, down 13% from the same week in 2020, bringing cumulative US grain carloads for the year to 756,739 for a weekly average of 23,648 carloads, up 14% from the same period in 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 72,109 carloads for the week ended Aug. 14, down 2%, and 75,238 intermodal units, up 8% compared with the same week in 2020, bringing cumulative 2021 Canadian rail traffic volume to 4,751,539 carloads, containers and trailers, up 7%. Canadian grain carloads for the week totaled 5,177, down 42% from the same week a year earlier. Cumulative Canadian grain carloads in 2021 thus far totaled 293,984 for an average of 9,184 per week, up 6% from the same period in 2021.
Mexican railroads reported 19,950 carloads for the week ended Aug. 14, down 8% compared with the same week in 2020, and 15,012 intermodal units, down 15%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 32 weeks of 2021 was 1,177,917 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 7% from the same point in 2020. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 2,366, down 5% from the same week a year earlier, bringing the total for 2021 to 67,319 for an average of 2,104 carloads per week, a 12% decline from the same period in 2020.
North American rail volume for the week ended Aug. 14, on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 327,070 carloads, up 3% compared with the same week last year, and 360,049 intermodal units, down 2% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 687,119 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.6%. North American rail volume for the first 32 weeks of 2021 was 22,249,304 carloads and intermodal units, up 10% compared with 2020. North American grain carloads in the week totaled 27,031, down 20% from the same week a year earlier, bringing the total for 2021 to 1,117,952 carloads for a weekly average of 34,936 up 10% from the same period last year.
Average August shuttle secondary railcar bids-offers in the week ended Aug. 12 were $253 below tariff per car, down $206 from the previous week and $553 lower than this week last year, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. There were no non-shuttle bids-offers in the week.
Barged grain movements in the week ended Aug. 14 totaled 538,914 tons, down 1% from the previous week but 20% higher than the same period last year, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In the same week, 334 grain barges moved down river, 25 fewer barges than in the prior week, the Corps and AMS said. There were 512 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 12% fewer than the previous week.
Ocean freight activity
In the week ended Aug. 12, 34 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the US Gulf (including Mississippi, Texas and the East Gulf), up 17% from the same period last year, according to the USDA’s AMS. In the 10 days from Aug. 13, 34 vessels were expected to be loaded, down 19% from the same period last year.
As of Aug. 12, the rate for shipping one tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan was $79, unchanged from the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $43 per tonne, unchanged from the previous week.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a division of the US Department of Transportation, recently announced last month the availability of up to $10 million in grants through a notice-of-funding opportunity for FHWA’s Accelerated Innovation Deployment demonstration program. These funds are used to deploy proven innovations to help maximize limited resources for road and bridge projects of state, local, and tribal governments. Funding for projects in two major grain-producing states: Michigan ($977,398) and South Dakota ($1 million) were the most recently awarded AID grants. More information on previous AID-funded projects and links to search and apply for grants by Sept. 28 is at www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/grants.
Diesel fuel prices
In the week ended Aug. 16, the US average diesel fuel price decreased 0.8¢ from the previous week to $3.356 per gallon, 92.9¢ above the same week in 2020.
The average on-highway diesel fuel price in the week ended Aug. 16 by region in dollars per gallon with change from a week earlier and change from a year earlier:
Aug. 16 from a from a
Region price week ago year ago
East Coast total 3.316 -0.012 0.808
New England 3.271 0.009 0.644
Central Atlantic 3.485 -0.008 0.801
Lower Atlantic 3.212 -0.018 0.847
Midwest 3.259 -0.012 0.951
Gulf Coast 3.073 -0.010 0.896
Rocky Mountain 3.657 -0.018 1.292
West Coast 4.029 0.020 1.071
West Coast less California 3.682 0.007 1.096
California 4.319 0.031 1.055