KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — Inspections of corn, wheat and soybeans for export from all major US exporting regions totaled 824,000 tonnes in the week ended Sept. 9. Though inspections were up 2% from the previous week, the total was 75% lower compared with the same week in 2020 and down 66% from the three-year average, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) said in its latest grain transportation report.
Total inspections were the lowest on record since early January 2019. The sharp decline came in the second week following Hurricane Ida’s landfall just south of New Orleans, Louisiana, US, on Aug. 29, which wreaked havoc on the Mississippi River shipping channel at the center Gulf and damaged several terminal grain elevators.
Inspections of wheat that were up 33% and soybeans up 16% from the previous week were more than offset by a 50% drop in corn
inspections. Corn shipments were down, primarily to Asia, the AMS said. There were no inspections of grain in the Mississippi Gulf as the region continued to recover from Hurricane Ida. Pacific Northwest (PNW) inspections increased 30% from the previous week.
In the four-week period beginning Aug. 12, total grain inspections were 57% below the same time last year and 51% below the three-year average, the AMS said.
US weekly rail traffic in the week ended Sept. 18 totaled 505,622 carloads and intermodal units, down 3% compared with the same week last year, the Association of American Railroads said Sept. 22 in its weekly rail traffic update. US traffic for the first 37 weeks of 2021 was 18,794,185 carloads and intermodal units, up 10% compared to the same period in 2020.
Separately, US carloads in the week totaled 234,790, up 4% from the same week a year ago, and US intermodal volume was 270,832 containers and trailers, down 8% compared with 2020.
In the week, 7 of 10 carload commodity groups posted increases from the same week in 2020: Chemicals, up 4%; coal, up 12%; food and farm products excluding grain, up 0.5%; forest products, up 10%; metallic ores and metals, up 27%; nonmetallic metals, up 7%; other, up 3%. Motor vehicles and parts traffic was down 34% from 2020, and petroleum and petroleum products was down 4%. Grain carloads in the week totaled 19,432, down 12% from the same week last year, bringing the cumulative total for 2021 to 844,958 carloads for an average of 22,837 per week, an increase of 9% from the same period in 2020.
Canadian railroads reported 77,935 carloads for the week ended Sept. 18, down 7%, and 74,845 intermodal units, up 0.8% compared with the same week in 2020. Cumulative 2021 Canadian rail traffic volume rose to 5,480,022 carloads, containers and trailers, up 6% from 2020. Canadian grain carloads in the week totaled 6,410, down 33% from the same week last year, bringing the 2021 total to 326,077 cars for an average of 8,813 per week, up 0.8% from the same period a year ago.
Mexican railroads reported 18,594 carloads for the week, up 11% compared with the same week last year, and 14,111 intermodal units, up 0.3%. Cumulative 2021 volume on Mexican railroads reached 1,357,635 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 6% from the same period in 2020. Mexican grain carloads in the week totaled 2,110, up 31% compared with the same week last year, bringing the 2021 total to 78,950 carloads for an average of 2,134 per week, down 8% from the comparable period last year.
North American rail volume on 12 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads in the week ended Sept. 18 totaled 331,319 carloads, up 1% from 2020, and 359,788 intermodal units, down 6% from 2020. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 691,107 carloads and intermodal units, down 3%. North American rail volume for the first 37 weeks of 2021 was 25,631,842 carloads and intermodal units, up 9% compared with 2020. North American grain carloads in the week totaled 27,952, down 16% from the same week a year ago, bringing cumulative grain carloads shipped on the continent in 2021 to 1,249,985 carloads, which averages to 33,783 per week, up 5% year over year.
The average September shuttle secondary railcar bids-offers were $351 per car above tariff for the week ended Sept. 9, the AMS said after reviewing data collected by James B. Joiner Co. and Tradewest Brokerage Co. That price was up $287 from the previous week and $449 lower than the same week in 2020. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.
Barge grain movements totaled 176,618 tons in the week ended Sept. 11, down 43% from the previous week and down 78% from the same period in 2020, the US Army Corps of Engineers said.
In the same week, 114 grain barges moved down river, 83 fewer than in the prior week, the Corps and AMS said.
Ocean freight activity
Six oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf in the week ended Sept. 9, down 86% from the same period last year. In the 10 days starting Sept. 10, 30 vessels were expected to be loaded, 54% fewer than the same period last year. Lower vessel counts are partly due to incomplete data because of Hurricane Ida, the AMS said.
The rate for shipping one tonne of grain from the US Gulf to Japan was $80.25, down 2% from the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $44.25 per tonne, down 1% from the previous week, the AMS said.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Aug. 31 extended its waiver on commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements for truck drivers. It now extends through Nov. 30.
The waiver originally was instituted in March 2020 in response to a declaration of a national emergency that month related to the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus that came to be known as COVID-19. The waiver permits, but does not require, states to extend the validity of CDLs due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, and extends an exemption from CDL-required medical certification provided the certification expired on or after June 1, 2021.
FMCSA will again review the waiver on Oct. 1, but may end it sooner if conditions warrant, the AMS said.
The US average diesel fuel price in the week ended Sept. 13 decreased by 0.1¢ from the previous week to $3.372 per gallon, 95¢ above the same week a year earlier, the US Energy Information Administration said.
The average on-highway diesel fuel price per gallon by region in the week ended Sept. 20, followed by the change from the prior week and the change from the same week a year earlier:
East Coast $3.352 0.015 0.866
New England 3.300 0.012 0.699
Central Atlantic 3.496 0.010 0.834
Lower Atlantic 3.266 0.020 0.923
Midwest 3.290 0.008 1.008
Gulf Coast 3.119 0.020 0.962
Rocky Mountain 3.629 -0.007 1.281
West Coast 4.026 0.010 1.085
West Coast less Calif. 3.663 0.002 1.106
California 4.329 0.016 1.072