Canada Markets

Prairie Rail Data Points to a Tough February

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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The vertical bars represent the daily number of railcars not moving as reported by the AG Transport Coalition, as measured against the primary vertical axis. The orange line with markers represents each day's percent change from the previous 30-day moving average, measured against the secondary vertical axis. (DTN graphic by Cliff Jamieson)

The attached chart points to Ag Transport Coalition Daily Pipeline Status data focusing on cars not moving since early December. This clearly points to increased challenges faced in February relative to the month earlier.

Weather is likely one key factor behind challenges faced, with recent reports from Calgary in the western Prairies pointing to a potential for the coldest February in 40 years, while also potentially reaching the third coldest February experienced in records going back to 1882. Meanwhile, Saskatoon in Saskatchewan is preparing to log the fifth coldest February on record. Recent reports also suggest that spring may not arrive until late March/early April, indicating that weeks of below-average temperatures may lie ahead.

As seen on the attached chart, the number of hopper cars reported as not moving reached a low of 1,328 cars on Jan. 14, at the time, 60% below the previous 30-day moving average. During January, daily data pointed to an average of 2,621 cars reported as not moving.

By Feb. 11, this number was reported at 4,770 cars, or 71% higher than the previous 30-day moving average. This number fell slightly over the following week, although the past five days data (Feb. 19 through Feb. 26), shows this count increasing each day to 4,688 cars, or 32% higher than the 30-day average. So far, data for February has averaged 3,925 cars, up close to 50% from the average calculated in January.

February also proved a challenging month when the number of rationed or cancelled cars are considered. As of the end of week 22, or the end of December, CN had rationed or cancelled 2,411 cars while CP had cancelled 97 cars. This count was unchanged through the end of January, or week 26 data as of Jan. 27. As of week 29 data, a cumulative total of 4,134 CN cars had been cancelled, along with 106 CP cars. In week 29 alone, 956 cars were cancelled, or 22.5% of the total cancelled cars.

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