CN’s car orders improve; CP still struggles

Ag Transport Coalition data shows that CN supplied about 91 percent of grain hopper cars on time during Week 38

The number of hoppers cars being spotted at western Canadian grain elevators continues to improve at Canadian National Railway, while weekly hopper car deliveries at Canadian Pacific Railway continue to falter, according to figures supplied by the Ag Transport Coalition.

ATC numbers show that CN’s numbers have been improving consistently since the arrival of warmer conditions.

During Week 38 of the 2017-18 shipping season, CN supplied about 91 percent of the grain hopper cars ordered by western Canadian grain shippers on time, ATC said.

Week 38 covers the period from April 15-21, 2018.

CN’s on-time car-order fulfillment record has improved steadily over the past month, rising from 69 percent in Week 35 to 83 percent in Week 36, 84 percent in Week 37 and 91 percent in Week 38.

In the week ending April 28 (Week 39), CN said it delivered 6,424 hopper cars to locations across Western Canada, up from 6,383 the previous week.

Those figures include new car orders for the current week and cars used to fill back orders from previous weeks.

“As you can see, the immediate steps we have taken are yielding results,” CN said in an April 30 email.

“We were delivering 4,129 cars a week on average in February and we have been able to exceed 5,500 cars for eight consecutive weeks.”

At Canadian Pacific, car order fulfillment numbers have been going in the opposite direction, according to ATC.

After outperforming CN for the first six months of the 2017-18 shipping season, CP’s service to the agriculture sector has slipped over the past month, with on-time car-order fulfillment languishing in the range of 53 to 69 percent over about the past month, ATC figures suggest.

According to ATC, CP’s on-time car-order fulfillment dropped from 69 percent in Week 35 to 53 percent in Week 36.

CP performance rebounded to 61 percent in Week 37 before dropping again to 53 percent in Week 38.

In its weekly performance report, ATC said a structured shutdown of CP’s operations in anticipation of an April 21 strike likely had some impact on the railway’s Week 38 performance.

“While we are unable to quantify its impact on empty-car spotting during Week 38, it is likely that the structured shutdown of operations undertaken by CP … in anticipation of a labour disruption negatively impacted performance to some extent,” the ATC report said.

In Week 38, CP supplied on-time 2,068 of the 3,898 hoppers cars ordered.

All told, the railway company delivered 3,323 hopper cars during Week 38, including 1,407 that were used to address unfilled back orders from previous weeks, ATC said.

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