The North American revenue-earning railcar fleet increased by 1 percent in 2012, according to the 2013 North American Freight Railcar Review, published by Railinc.
The revenue-earning fleet is a subset of the total fleet consisting mostly of freight cars.
The 1-percent increase in 2012 was good news for those in the freight industry, as there was almost no increase seen in the previous report. But the fleet is still not at pre-recession levels. While hoppers and box cars showed a decline in the report, the largest sub fleets – covered hoppers, tanks and gondolas – all showed increases.
The total fleet equipment count increased at the end of last year, moving up 0.2 percent from the third to the fourth quarter, leaving the total size of the rail equipment fleet at 1.96 million. Of that number, covered hoppers took up 26 percent of the total, tank cars represented 17 percent of the whole and gondolas had a 14-percent share.
Eleven equipment types were reported, and seven of them experienced increases from the third quarter to the fourth quarter. Most significantly, intermodal equipment jumped up 5.4 percent and end-of-train devices inched up 2.7 percent. Box cars showed the largest decline at 1.4 percent.
Fleet age is also an important measure in the industry, and Railinc found the average fleet age decreased by 0.1 years in 2012. The report noted more new equipment is coming into the industry as older fleets are retired. - Jon Ross