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For most of the first half of 2015, freight-rail volumes were essentially flat, year over year; as of press time, a significant near-term uptick seemed unlikely. But this industry is all about the longer view and rail strategists plan accordingly. Witness their 2015 capex budgets. To help support the growth they know is coming down the line, U.S freight railroads will spend about $29 billion on their networks this year, according to the Association of American Railroads' "2015 Outlook Report." And railroads have set aside a chunk of those billions to acquire new locomotives and freight cars.
For example, BNSF Railway Co. has allocated $1.4 billion this year to acquire locomotives, rail cars and other equipment. CSX Corp. earmarked one-fourth of its $2.5 billion capex budget for equipment investments, such as locomotive and rail-car acquisitions. CN expects to take delivery of 90 new high-horsepower locomotives and will invest in new rolling stock and freight car refurbishments. At Ferromex, the 2015 plan is to invest $411 million, enabling Ferromex and Ferrosur to complete a 34-locomotive order placed with Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. last summer. Ferromex will receive 19 SD70ACe units and Ferrosur, 15 locomotives.
Meanwhile, rail-car orders dropped off in the first quarter, primarily due to the slowing of tank-car orders. Rail-car orders totaled 15,952 units in 1Q, down from 37,431 in fourth-quarter 2014 and 24,050 in first-quarter 2014, according to the American Railway Car Institute Committee (ARCI) of the Railway Supply Institute. The car backlog as of April 1 totaled 138,856 units versus 142,837 units on Dec. 31, 2014, 124,437 units on Oct. 1, 2014, and 99,782 units on July 1, 2014, according to ARCI.
But the rail-car market remains robust, as the writers of Economic Planning Associates Inc.’s (EPA) Railcar Overview put it in their 1Q report. One reason: Demand for all types of covered hoppers continues to increase, according to EPA. Another: Based on current backlogs and continued demand for intermodal equipment, EPA expects deliveries of 7,500 units this year. EPA projects total deliveries of 88,000 cars and platforms in 2015, and assemblies of 78,500 units in 2016.
"The various equipment types, with the exception of coal cars, continue to exhibit strength," EPA's report writers noted.
For a glimpse at what the rail-car market looked like at year-end 2014, we offer five data-filled charts (see below) from the Association of American Railroads: Selected Car Fleet Data, Freight Cars Installed by Class Is and Others, How the North American Freight Car Fleet Has Changed, and North American Freight Cars by Type and Age. There's also a chart that features Class I locomotive data.
Two charts are based primarily on information gleaned from the April 2015 edition of The Official Railway Equipment Register: Railroad Car Owners and Private Car Owners. Rail-car equipment is listed by AAR reporting mark, except where indicated (see the Private Car Owners chart).
Selected Car Fleet Data (pdf)
Railroad Car Owners (pdf)
Private Car Owners (pdf)
Freight Cars Installed by Class I Railroads and Others (pdf)
How the North American Freight Car Fleet Has Changed (pdf)
North American Freight Cars by Type and Age (pdf)
Class I Locomotives (pdf)