Southbound Traffic to the US February to May 2023

RailState, the rail industry’s only provider of real-time rail network visibility, independently tracks all freight rail movements across Canada in real-time, including traffic flows through US/Canada border crossings. Data on traffic flows to the western ports region for export is available here

Total southbound traffic from Canada was 134,124 cars in February, 139,283 in March, 138,996 in April, and 139,409 in May. CN commands the majority of that traffic, 62.1% of total southbound traffic over the past four months. This is higher than the proportion of total export traffic to western ports, for which CN moves 58% of total traffic. 

Total southbound traffic on CN in May was 85,256 cars, which was 1.6% higher than traffic in April (83,897 cars). CP showed a modest decrease in total southbound traffic from April to May, dropping 1.7%, after jumping 11.2% last month. Average daily southbound traffic for CP was about 1800 cars per day, which has been the consistent volume on that railway, except for March, which saw lower volume of 1600 cars per day. 

CP showed a significant increase in total southbound traffic from March to April, growing 11.2% from 49,567 cars in March to 55,099 cars in April. Average daily southbound traffic for CP has fluctuated over the last three months, with 1800 cars per day in February, dropping to 1600 per day in March, and rebounding to just over 1800 per day in April.

At the Border – Southbound and Northbound Flows

Northbound traffic into Canada outpaced southbound traffic in May, with 149,807 cars coming into Canada compared to 139,409 going to the US.

Southbound Northbound Map May 2023 CP and CN

The busiest border crossings on CN-originated traffic were Fort Frances, ON/International Falls, MN (39.6% of total CN southbound traffic), Port Huron, MI (37.5%), and Blaine, WA/Vancouver-Seattle (via BNSF) (20.5%). At Fort Frances, CN carried 11.2% more cars northbound over the past four months. At Port Huron, there were 6.7% more southbound cars over the same period. 

For CP, the busiest crossings were Windsor (29.8% of total CP southbound traffic), North Portal, SK (25.7%), Kingsgate, BC (19.5%), and Emerson, MB (18.3%). No CP crossing saw a significant total difference in southbound v. northbound traffic over the past four months.

What is Moving – Car Mix

The two rail lines carry substantially different mixes of cars although both carry energy products and agricultural commodities as their biggest categories. 

CP leans more heavily on energy and agricultural products southbound to the US than CN. Nearly a quarter of cars in May were tank cars and 39.2% of cars were covered hoppers (grain and potash).

CP Southbound to Border May 2023

CN carries a similar proportion of tank cars (23.2%), far fewer covered hoppers, and a greater proportion of stack cars (16.0%) and equipped gondolas (11.3%).

CN Southbound to Border May 2023

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