True or false: Freight rail growth might require fewer cars in the future. As Class I railroads reported their 1Q2020 and full-year 2019 quarterly financial results, the expectation set by the individual railroads was that returning customers will help spur volume growth. Though 2020 is starting out slowly, most senior railroad executives and shipper logistics managers are talking about a possible recovery in the second half of the year. However, there is little statistical economic data published yet to support that optimistic outlook.
Here is a different perspective regarding the decline in U.S. rail carloads, and how long ago it may have started. Lee A. Clair, Managing Partner at Transportation and Logistics Advisors (T&LA, Highland Park, Ill.) originally authored these observations.
Intermodal rail—a transportation mode choice that was to take trucks off the road—is slowing down. Where is it heading? Over several decades, the premise was that railroad intermodal trailer on flat cars (TOFC) and containers mostly on double-stacked well cars (COFC) would grow in volume and therefore reduce highway truck congestion.