North American railcar owners scrapped a net 3 to 4 percent of cars they operated or held in storage during the recession, sending about 57,000 aging units to recyclers since they began drawing down their fleet of stored railcars in mid-2009.
The Association of American Railroads said the railcar fleet in the U.S., Canada and Mexico totaled 1.522 million units as of Feb. 1, down from 1.579 million in July 2009. The AAR's Railinc subsidiary, which tracks car movements around the continent, says the North American fleet ended 2010 with about 1.54 million units, down 3 percent from a year earlier.
In the depths of the recession, car owners - equipment leasing firms, railroads and freight shippers - had parked more than 500,000 cars by July 1, 2009, as they waited for traffic to pick up, leaving 31.9 percent of the total fleet in storage.
In its latest Rail Time Indicators report, the AAR said 318,773 freight cars remained idled on Feb. 1, or 20.9 percent of the current fleet. That means 184,080 have been drawn out of storage since the end of the recession, and the trade group said owners activated a net 127,000 for revenue service while scrapping the rest.
The industry does not report specific details of when and how many railcars are scrapped, but derives the estimate from other information. In addition, the car fleet totals include some newly manufactured units that began coming into service in the past year. A net scrappage of 57,000 units would be 3.6 percent of the July 2009 fleet, but to offset incoming new cars the actual level of scrapped units would be somewhat higher.
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