Commentary

STB’s Annual Rail Rate Index Study: A Deeper Dive

Written by Jay Roman
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Image courtesy CIT Rail

The newly released STB Annual Rail Rate Index Study (Study) summarizes trends in freight rail rates between 1985 and 2019. The Study shows that inflation-adjusted Real Rail Rates have decreased 27% over the past 34 years. Because Real rail rates are lower now than in 1985, the STB Study may be read by some to imply that current rail rates are reasonable in relation to what they have been historically. Unfortunately, this is not an accurate conclusion, because the historical trend in rates provides an incomplete picture of the change in cost of shipping freight by rail.

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