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<< Rail News Home: Mechanical

3/3/2004    Freight News

Rail News: Mechanical

Rail-car orders, deliveries climbing, but builders haven't curtailed castings shortage, EPA says

Last year, North American rail-car deliveries rose 82 percent to 32,200 compared with 2002. But 2003's figure could be even higher if tight castings and other component supplies didn't hamper production, and cause some car builders to seek offshore suppliers, according Economic Planning Associates Inc.'s latest quarterly "Outlook for Rail Cars" report.

Fourth-quarter car orders totaled 12,000 units, increasing 2003's total to 47,200 and helping car builders enter 2004 with a 34,000-unit backlog (cars ordered but not yet delivered).

The improving U.S. economy will strengthen rail traffic this year and in 2005, raising demand for various cars, EPA said, adding that growing ethanol production, stricter air emission standards and increasing grain exports will prompt car owners to expand or replace fleets.

However, the continuing domestic castings shortage is expected to constrain production the rest of 2004 and through 2005's first half. Because of higher steel costs, car builders will increase new car prices, but deliveries still will reach 42,600 in 2004 and 46,400 in 2005, EPA official believe.

Between 2006 and 2009, car owners will seek to replace steel-bodied coal, box and multi-level flat cars, as well as mid-sized and small-cube covered hoppers. Consumer-market growth also will increase demand for tank and coal cars, centerbeams, intermodal equipment and high-cube covered hoppers, EPA said, adding that deliveries should steadily increase to 60,000 units by 2009.

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