July 8, 2020 - TRA Newswire -

With Texas auto manufacturing plants coming back to life while the Coronavirus continues to play havoc with the economy, it has resulted in more rail cars coming out of storage that carry new vehicles to market. That's a bright spot for both Union Pacific and BNSF Railway that serve a General Motors plant in Arlington and a Toyota factory in San Antonio. The gradual comeback of the auto industry is resulted in almost 80% of those added auto-racks moving on the rails again.

Otherwise, as of July 1st, the PFL Railcar Storage Report shows that over half a million rail cars have been idled nationwide, an increase of almost 11% over the month of May and a 60% year over year increase in parked rail cars. The total number of cars in storage has increased by more than one-third since March 1st, when the pandemic took hold, with every category except intermodal seeing double digit percentage slides over the same period.

17% of the total fleet of auto-racks still remain in storage, according to PFL, which is well above historic levels. Other categories saw an increase in the number of rail cars stored including more than 24% of the total refrigerated car fleet is in storage, nearly double historic averages.

30% of the fleet of covered hopper cars are sidelined and 35% of tank cars are in storage, one of the biggest increases since March. The biggest contributing factor to this has been the decline in petroleum and chemical product traffic, with petroleum products down 27% year over year and chemicals down 13 year over year.

By far, the largest year over year decline has been in coal carloads, with May being their worst month in history, according to PFL. While that rebounded slightly this month with a 9.1% increase in coal traffic, the number of gondolas in storage continues to increase, driven in large part by this decline.