Railinc Tracks Blog

Railinc tracks are everywhere although you don't always see them. The Railinc Tracks blog reveals them one at a time and shows you how we help to keep railroads, railcars and rail shipments moving across America. The blog is staffed by the Railinc Corporate Communication team and will give you news and insights about our company, our people and our products.

Entries with tag research and reports .

Global Conference Panel Features Railinc Analyst

The North American railcar fleet grew by about 27,000 cars through July 2018, adding about 11,000 covered hoppers and 5,000 tank cars. Those were among the takeaways from a recent Railcar and Locomotive Outlook and Overview panel featuring Railinc Sr. Data Scientist Dr. David Humphrey and others at Cowen and Company’s 11th Global Transportation Conference.

The entire panel session is available below and here.

Each year, Humphrey uses Umler data to create demographic profiles of the railcar and locomotive fleets and presents the information at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference in La Quinta, Calif. Companion reports on the railcar and locomotive fleets are available to download for free on the Railinc Research Reports page.

 

Railinc Releases 2017 Annual Report

Last year, Railinc continued working to deliver value to customers through innovative technologies that help to address some of the freight rail industry’s most pressing challenges. Leveraging our people, processes and technology, we completed critical industry projects, advanced important initiatives, upgraded systems and developed solutions that addressed rail safety, asset maintenance and utilization, and traffic management.

We’re proud of our purpose-driven work, serving the freight rail industry and creating value for people and business across North America. Our 2017 Railinc annual reportDelivering Innovation—highlights that work and our accomplishments from the past year.

Links to our 2017 annual report and past reports are available on our Annual Report page.

Global Conference Panel Features Railinc Analyst

The North American railcar fleet grew by about 21,000 cars through July, adding about 5,500 grain or fertilizer covered hoppers, 4,500 tank cars and 3,500 plastic pellet covered hoppers. Those were among the takeaways from a recent Railcar Outlook and Overview panel featuring Railinc Senior Analyst Dr. David Humphrey and others at Cowen and Company’s 10th annual Global Transportation Conference.

The entire panel session is available below. Railway Age also published a recap of the discussion
 


Each year, Humphrey uses Umler data to create demographic profiles of the railcar and locomotive fleets and presents the information at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference in La Quinta, Calif. Companion reports on the railcar and locomotive fleets are available to download for free on the Railinc Research Reports page.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Reports Detail Growth of Fleets

Railinc’s Umler system is a rich industry resource that contains data on more than 2 million pieces of rail equipment and includes details such as railcar dimensions, capacities and weight, and locomotive horsepower and fuel capacity. Analysis of these data can provide powerful insights into the size and makeup of the North American railcar and locomotive fleets.

Since 2010, Railinc Senior Analyst Dr. David Humphrey, right, has used Umler data to create demographic profiles of the railcar and locomotive fleets for an annual presentation at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference in La Quinta, Calif. Railinc representatives have appeared at the conference since 1999.

“This year, as always, attendees of the Rail Equipment Finance Conference appreciated David Humphrey’s presentations on the state of the railcar and locomotive fleets,” said David Nahass, president of Railroad Financial Corporation, which holds the conference. “At REF, senior executives from companies throughout the rail finance industry are joined by numerous financial and rail industry analysts to hear David speak. They know that Railinc is a trusted data source. David’s presentations help set the tone for thoughtful discussions and a great conference.”

About 400 people attended the conference in March, including representatives from railcar lessors and lessees, banks, shippers, Class I railroads, short line railroads and finance companies.

In the Q&A below, Humphrey discusses the railcar and locomotive fleets, what’s new in this year’s railcar review, and overall trends for railcars and locomotives. Detailed information about the fleets, including full-color charts, is included in the 2017 North American Freight Railcar Review and the 2017 North American Locomotive Review, both available via free download here.

What types of railcars are in the revenue-earning fleet?
The revenue-earning fleet, a subset of the North American rail fleet, is made up of six subfleets: hoppers, covered hoppers, gondolas, flat cars, tank cars and box cars. These cars can be used in interchange service and can be associated with an interline waybill. The revenue-earning fleet doesn’t include locomotives, intermodal trailers and containers, maintenance-of-way equipment and end-of-train devices.

What’s new in this year’s railcar review?
In past years, the railcar review presented data on car types grouped by their gross rail load (GRL) capacity. This year’s report presents car types by the kinds of commodities they carry, which provides a more nuanced view. This lets us focus on the most commonly shipped commodities for the most popular car types. For example, while covered hoppers—which grew the most of all the car types in 2016—carry grain, sand, plastic pellets, and other commodities, the types of covered hoppers that transport those commodities have different characteristics. The covered hopper that typically carries sand is going to be smaller than the covered hopper that carries corn or soybeans.

How do people use the data you present?
My presentation is one of the first on the Rail Equipment Finance Conference agenda, and the information serves as an overview for all of the freight car-related topics covered in the first two days. Railinc and its Umler Equipment Index are known as a definitive source of quality data on the status of the North American railcar fleet. The conference has a focus on the financial aspects of buying, selling, leasing and building freight cars and locomotives, which means the data we present are particularly relevant to the attendees and the companies they represent.

What were the major trends for the revenue-earning fleet?
The revenue-earning fleet grew by 1.4 percent in 2016, driven by increases in the covered hopper and tank car populations. The hopper car type contracted for the seventh year in a row, and the gondola population decreased for the fourth straight year. For the first time in years, the number of box cars held steady from the previous year. The fleet continues to grow younger, with the average age of the fleet declining again in 2016. The trend of GRL 286 cars leading among additions to the revenue-earning fleet continued in 2016.

What were the trends for locomotives?
Locomotives continue to join the fleet at a steady rate: 2016 was the seventh consecutive year of growth for the fleet. The average and median ages for locomotives both increased in 2016. Also, high-horsepower, AC locomotives with six axles and high fuel capacity continue to make up the majority of new additions to the fleet.

The 2017 North American Freight Railcar Review and the 2017 North American Locomotive Review are available to download for free, as are past reports. Railinc also provides quarterly updates on the revenue-earning fleet in its Umler Equipment Index.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Rail Fleet Bright Spot: Boxcars Shine in Q2

A train with boxcars rumbles down the tracks.

Followers of the rail industry have likely come across discussions recently about the make-up of the boxcar fleet in North America and how it serves a broad customer base. The total count of boxcars in the North American fleet was approximately 109,000 at the end of 2015. Those boxcars, however, can be divided into two distinct categories that are relevant for equipment owners and for shippers. There is the older, smaller fleet of boxcars and there is the newer, larger fleet of boxcars.

There are about 74,000 older, smaller boxcars, which share important characteristics. Most of these boxcars—50,000 of them—are older (ages 35 years and above), smaller (about 50 feet in length) and limited to carrying lighter weights (gross rail load of 220,000 or 263,000 pounds).

Then there’s the other portion of the boxcar fleet.

There are about 35,000 newer, larger boxcars, which also share important characteristics. Most of these boxcars— 25,000 of them—are newer (less than 25 years of age), larger (typically about 60 feet in length), and capable of carrying heavier weights (gross rail load of 286,000 pounds).
 

"Missing Decade" Will Shape Boxcar Retirement Trends

Railinc Sr. Analyst David Humphrey, center,
reviews rail fleet data with his colleagues.

In between these two portions of the boxcar fleet is something of a missing decade. If we examine just boxcars that have ages from 24 years to 32 years, that spans a nine-year window—roughly a decade.

Within that period, there are fewer than 2,000 boxcars in the North American fleet, and all of those are the older, smaller boxcars. That is, the very few boxcars in that nine-year age group represent the last and youngest of previous generation of boxcars that were added to the fleet two or three decades ago. The outcome: There will be small boxcars retiring from the fleet in the next 15 years, followed by about 10 years with very few boxcars retiring, before the retirement of large boxcars begins in large quantities in about 25 years.

These differences in physical characteristics between the older, smaller boxcars and the newer, larger boxcars can be very important. Some shippers are limited by weight in how much lading can be placed in a boxcar. (Think about shipping gold bars.) They reach the weight limit on the boxcar before reaching the limit on cubic capacity.

Other shippers are limited by cubic capacity in how much lading can be placed in a boxcar. (Think about shipping chicken feathers.) They reach the interior space limit on the boxcar before reaching the weight limit.

But whether the shipper reaches the weight or the cubic-capacity limit first, those older, smaller boxcars consistently carry less lading than the newer, larger boxcars. And while older, smaller boxcars are retiring from the fleet, the rate of addition of newer, larger boxcars has been such that the overall capacity of the boxcars fleet has decreased significantly in recent years.
 

Second Quarter Boxcar Additions Outpaced 2014, 2015 Combined

There is, however, some indication that a change is potentially upon us.

A few hundred new boxcars have been added to the fleet this year. In fact, more new boxcars were added during the second quarter of 2016 than were added in all of 2014 and 2015 combined. And the new boxcars that are being added are typically 60 feet in length with a gross rail load of 286,000 pounds.

While it is too soon to call this a trend, it is something of a bright spot in an otherwise challenging year. It certainly warrants monitoring in the upcoming months, even if you’re not shipping gold bars or chicken feathers.

—David Humphrey Ph.D.


David Humphrey Ph.D. is a data scientist and senior analyst at Railinc. Each year, at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference, he presents detailed analyses of demographic data on the North American railcar and locomotive fleets. Read a Q&A with Humphrey and download his 2016 railcar and locomotive fleet reports for free. 

 
— 5 Items per Page
Showing 1 - 5 of 12 results.