Written by

David Humphrey, Ph.D, Senior Information Scientist, Railinc Corp.

(National Steel Car)

(Nationwide Metal Automobile)

RAILWAY AGE APRIL 2023 ISSUE: Railinc’s evaluation of the North American revenue-earning fleet reveals that the entire fleet elevated in 2022 with nearly all automobile varieties accounting for the achieve.

One of many smallest automobile varieties, hoppers, continued declining in 2022. The typical age of automobiles within the revenue-earning fleet was up, and new automobiles continued to pattern on the bigger facet, with the bulk having gross rail masses (GRLs) of 286,000 kilos.

This report from Railinc represents the interval ending Dec. 31, 2022. It supplies an business overview of the North American railcar fleet, detailing important rail gear statistics and total rail gear developments. Railinc compiled all information within the report from its Umler® system. 

The Umler® gear registry incorporates the bodily traits, transportation administration, and pool assignments of greater than two million items of rail gear in North America. It’s up to date practically a million instances every month.

The revenue-earning fleet is essentially composed of freight automobiles that can be utilized in interchange service and in opposition to which an interline waybill may be positioned. The North American rail gear fleet additionally consists of locomotives, end-of-train (EOT) units, upkeep gear, and many others., which aren’t included on this report. In context, the revenue-earning fleet totaled 1.63 million items, whereas the entire depend for railroad gear of all sorts was 2.09 million items. 

The revenue-earning fleet is made up of six subfleets: hoppers, coated hoppers, gondolas, flats, tank automobiles and boxcars. It excludes locomotives, intermodal trailers and containers, maintenance-of-way gear, and EOT units. As a result of not all intermodal trailers and containers are registered within the Umler® system, Railinc doesn’t report them as a part of the revenue-earning fleet.


Detailed evaluation reveals the next developments:

The dimensions of the revenue-earning fleet elevated in 2022. The whole fleet dimension was up 0.4% from year-end 2021 to year-end 2022, in contrast with a 1.4% lower the earlier 12 months.

Almost all automobile varieties recorded good points within the revenue-earning fleet. Lined hoppers, gondolas, flats, tank automobiles and boxcars all noticed good points, with boxcars—the least populous automobile sort—up 2.6%. It was, nevertheless, the thirteenth consecutive 12 months of decline for hoppers, down 2.0%. 

The typical age of the revenue-earning fleet continued to climb in 2022. The typical age rose to twenty.1 years, its highest in additional than a decade, persevering with to recommend new automobiles have been becoming a member of the fleet at a barely decrease price than older automobiles have been exiting final 12 months.

The pattern of GRL 286 automobiles predominating amongst additions to the revenue-earning fleet continued in 2022. The variety of GRL 286 automobiles added to the fleet elevated by about 29% in 2022. These automobiles accounted for 96% of all new additions in 2022 and about 87% up to now decade. Bigger automobiles allow operational efficiencies that scale back prices and ease logistics challenges.

Determine 1: North American Freight Automobile Fleet, By Automobile Kind
Counts At Yr-Finish, Proven In Hundreds

The revenue-earning fleet realized a internet improve of seven,000 automobiles in 2022. On the finish of 2022, the revenue-earning freight automobile fleet totaled 1.63 million items, up about 0.4% from the earlier 12 months (see Determine 1, above).

Hoppers have been the one automobile sort that decreased within the revenue-earning fleet, down by 2.0% over 2021. All different automobile varieties elevated in 2022, with boxcars main the good points by 2.6%.

Determine 2: North American Freight Automobile Fleet
Common And Median Age

The typical age of railcars within the revenue-earning fleet in 2022 was 20.1 years, a 0.3-year improve from 2021. The typical age continues to hover round 20 years because it has for the previous decade (see Determine 2, above). The slight improve within the age of the fleet in 2022 means that new automobiles are being added at a slower price than outdated automobiles are exiting.

About 64,000 new automobiles have joined the revenue-earning fleet up to now two years (see Determine 3, under). The variety of new automobiles added in 2022 elevated 28% over 2021.

Determine 3:
North American Freight Automobile Fleet
Quantity Of Vehicles By Age

Railcars with a GRL of 286,000 kilos have made a lot of the new additions to the revenue-earning fleet up to now 25 years. Over that point, GRL 286 automobiles have accounted for 83% of all new additions to the fleet. This pattern continued in 2022, as 96% of latest gear have been GRL 286 automobiles (see Determine 4, under). The variety of GRL 263 automobiles added in 2022 decreased by about 975 automobiles from 2021. 

Determine 4: North American Freight Automobile Fleet
Quantity Of Vehicles By Age and GRL

GRL 286 automobiles dominate amongst latest additions to the fleet as a result of they allow operational efficiencies that scale back prices and ease logistics challenges. The fleet continues so as to add GRL 263 and GRL 268 automobiles, however at a a lot decrease price than GRL 286 automobiles. New GRL 220 automobiles additionally joined the fleet after seeing no automobiles added in 2021. The final 12 months non-GRL 286 automobiles led amongst new additions to the fleet was 1992.


Greater than 700 gear sort codes (ETCs) seem within the Umler® gear registry. Of these, 10 ETCs accounted for 52% of the revenue-earning fleet in 2022. For the ninth time since Railinc started producing this report in 2011, 9 of the highest 10 automobile varieties have been both tank automobiles or coated hoppers—the 2 largest automobile varieties within the revenue-earning fleet. The 2022 rankings remained static in contrast with the earlier 12 months, with no automobile varieties within the high 10 exchanging locations.

Because the demographics of the automobile varieties change, so do the common automobile dimension and the entire mixed capability of all of the items in a automobile sort. For instance, with the expansion within the tank automobile inhabitants, the entire fleet capability has elevated by 56.1% since 2009. Most new tanks are massive, which has pushed the common automobile dimension up by 7.9%. The whole fleet capability for coated hoppers has elevated, as nicely, by 22%. Nevertheless, the common automobile dimension has decreased barely as a result of most new coated hoppers are smaller.

Previously decade, the boxcar inhabitants has decreased, which has pushed down the entire fleet capability. Giant boxcars have joined the fleet, which led to a rise in common automobile dimension, however not at a quick sufficient price to offset the inhabitants loss.

A number of gear varieties comprise the revenue-earning fleet. This part of the report presents choose automobile varieties by the sorts of commodities they carry. This supplies a extra nuanced view of those automobile varieties. For instance, whereas coated hoppers carry grain, sand, plastic pellets and different commodities, the varieties of coated hoppers that transport every commodity are very completely different of their traits.

The report takes a deeper have a look at just a few of the automobile varieties, together with coated hoppers, gondolas, open hoppers and boxcars. These automobile varieties have been chosen as a result of they carry generally shipped commodities and make up a large proportion of the revenue-earning fleet.

Plastics: Lined hoppers are generally used to ship plastic pellets. This commodity subfleet added about 10,000 automobiles up to now two years, about 20% of what was added within the earlier 10 years mixed. Vehicles with gear sort code C214 comprise practically all the commodity subfleet as outlined right here, make up 9% of the revenue-earning fleet, and are the second-largest gear sort. New railcars have trended bigger. Of the automobiles added to the commodity subfleet up to now 20 years, about 94% have had a capability of 6,000 cubic toes or extra.

Grain/Fertilizer: Railroads transfer grain and fertilizer in massive coated hoppers. The grain and fertilizer subfleet added about 12,000 new automobiles up to now two years and make up about 17% of the revenue-earning fleet. Two varieties of coated hoppers—C114 and C113—account for about 96% of the commodity subfleet and are within the high 5 of probably the most populous gear varieties within the revenue-earning fleet. Bigger coated hoppers with capacities of at the very least 5,000 cubic toes have made up practically 88% of the additions to the commodity subfleet up to now 20 years.

Sand and Cement: Railroads transfer sand and cement utilizing small coated hoppers. Over the previous 10 years, the revenue-earning fleet has added nearly 51,000 coated hoppers with an gear sort code of C112. About 96% of the subfleet is comprised of C112s, which was the third-largest gear sort in 2022. Due to the density of sand and cement, the automobiles that carry these commodities are usually smaller. Of the automobiles within the subfleet, nearly all have a capability of simply over 3,000 cubic toes. Solely about 3% of the sand and cement automobiles have capacities lower than 3,000 cubic toes, and virtually no automobiles of this dimension have been added to the subfleet in nearly 25 years.

Coal: This commodity is shipped primarily in gondolas and open hoppers. These automobiles nonetheless made up a large portion of the revenue-earning fleet—10%, or 170,000 railcars—in 2021 and 2022. About 77% of these automobiles have been added between 1990 and 2013. Almost all of the coal-carrying railcars added up to now 30 years have been GRL 286 automobiles. 

Combination: Aggregates corresponding to limestone and crushed stone are shipped in gondolas and open hoppers. The variety of these automobile varieties added to the revenue-earning fleet in 2022 and 2021 was a number of instances better than these added within the earlier two-year interval. Almost half the automobiles within the combination commodity subfleet have been added up to now 16 years, although they make up solely 2% of the entire revenue-earning fleet. About 96% of all automobiles added to this commodity subfleet up to now 12 years have been GRL 286 automobiles.

Boxcar Commodities: Boxcars are the least populous automobile sort within the revenue-earning fleet and are used to ship all kinds of merchandise, from shopper items to automotive components. The boxcar fleet is older than different automobile varieties. As older and smaller boxcars proceed to age out of the fleet, new bigger boxcars proceed to be added. Boxcars with a GRL of lower than 286,000 kilos make up about 36% of this automobile sort, however most of these have been constructed greater than 40 years in the past.


The North American railcar fleet grew in 2022. The whole dimension of the revenue-earning fleet elevated after two years of decreases, up 0.4% from year-end 2021 to year-end 2022. 

The revenue-earning fleet added automobiles in nearly all subfleets—boxcars elevated probably the most, up 2.6%, adopted by gondolas at 2.0%. Solely hoppers decreased, falling by 2.0%. The typical age of automobiles within the revenue-earning fleet elevated to twenty.1 years, suggesting new automobiles are becoming a member of the fleet at a barely decrease price than older automobiles are exiting. GRL 286 automobiles proceed to predominate amongst new additions to the revenue-earning fleet. This dimension of automobile accounted for about 91% of all new additions to the fleet in 2022.

Railinc is a completely owned subsidiary of the Affiliation of American Railroads. For extra info and to obtain this report and associated supplies, go to www.railinc.com. 

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