North American railcar leasing fleets, shippers and railroads pulled 3,064 cars out of storage during June but still had 23.7 percent of their freight hauling equipment sitting idle.
That’s the latest estimate from the Association of American Railroads, which said that as of July 1 it figured 365,279 freight cars had gone without a revenue load for at least 60 days.
Industry analysts say most of those taken out of storage would be put into revenue service, but that during this slow recovery car owners are also selling more railcars than usual to scrap dealers whenever metal prices are attractive enough.
The June drawdown of idled railcars was better than the 747 that car owners pulled out of storage during May, but was still low. Equipment owners brought 31,000 parked cars out of rail yards and track sidings during March and 18,000 more in April. But freight traffic has slumped in the two months since then.
Manufacturers say they are building some new railcars such as covered hoppers for special cargo needs, but do not expect to get orders for new intermodal well cars until perhaps late this year. Some are rebuilding unwanted well cars that were originally built to haul 48-ft. domestic containers, and either cutting them down for 40-ft. marine intermodal shipments or stretching them to carry the popular 53-ft. jumbo domestic boxes.
The AAR said railcars in storage have now declined for 12 straight months, since freight began to pick up near the middle of 2009. The percentage of the fleet in storage topped off last year at 31.9 percent, the AAR says, and began this year at 28.2 percent.
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