Coal down for nation's largest shippers

NORFOLK Southern and CSX may rank as two of the largest coal rail transporters in the US but the commodity has not treated either with much fairness despite growths in other sectors including intermodal, according to recent data.

Donna Schmidt

Reports for the 52-week period ended December 28 showed that Norfolk Southern’s loads were down about 4% for 2013, from 1,348,695 carloads to 1,298,177.

CSX unfortunately had an even stiffer drop, coming in at 1,094,252 coal loads – nearly 8% lower than the 1,187,587 it reported for 2012.

Overall, the latter railroader saw a 28% reduction in coal shipments over a five-year period – in 2008, CSX marked more than 1.77 million carloads of coal.

At the same time, its total traffic actually rose 2% year on year between 2012 and 2013, as much improvement was seen in the company’s petroleum and intermodal traffic.

Interestingly, CSX coke shipments were up more than 20% for 2013.

The same could not be said for NS, which reported a 12% decline in coke but an overall year-on-year rise in traffic of more than 3%.

Both companies will report year-end numbers to the public later this month.