Canada Markets

A Year-Over-Year Look at Railway Performance

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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This chart compares the percentage of the hopper cars ordered that are spotted in the week wanted across the country system for loading in the first 27 weeks of 2018/19 (blue line) as compared to the previous crop year (brown line). (DTN graphic by Cliff Jamieson)

Railway performance, as reported by the major grain shippers' AG Transport Coalition data, remains improved from last crop year, despite challenges such as record levels of crude oil being shipped and record cold conditions being reported. On Feb. 6, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan reported its coldest day in 112 years, while the extreme cold warnings from Environment Canada are continuing into mid-February with cold weather remaining in the forecast.

In week 27, or the week ending Feb. 3, Canada's two major railways delivered 87% of the cars requested for loading across the prairie grain handling system, the lowest percentage in three weeks but well ahead of the 62% reported for the same week in 2017/18. As seen with the brown line on the attached chart, this percentage continued to slip for three consecutive weeks into week 30 in 2017/18, when a crop-year low of 32% of the demand for empty hoppers was met.

The current week's unfulfilled shipper demand continues to point to a higher degree of service provided so far this crop year. Outstanding orders, or empty hoppers yet to be spotted, are down 46% year-over-year to 1,421 cars. Total unfulfilled demand -- or a sum of the outstanding orders, rejected cars, railway cancelations, shortened supply and denied orders -- has fallen 61.4% year-over-year to a combined total of 7,975 cars. The largest change seen is in railway cancellations, or rationing, which fell a steep 81.4% year-over-year to 2,508 cars as compared to the 13,479 cars that were cancelled as of this time in 2017/18.

The year-over-year reduction in unfulfilled demand, as of week 27, totals 12,665 cars, while at 90 metric tons/car, allows for increased movement of 1.1 million metric tons.

While there are undoubtedly challenges faced and issues that need to be addressed for the future, some key data remains favorable.

Cliff Jamieson can be reached at

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