This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google
Terms of Service apply.
Compiled by Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor
The U.S. auto market has been experiencing a robust recovery this year following last year’s microchip shortage that dramatically slowed car production.
In May, the nation’s automotive industry posted its 10th consecutive month of sales increases, LMC Automotive recently reported.
One challenge to maintaining that momentum will be shipping new cars and light trucks from production floors to dealership showrooms to keep up with consumer demand. Some automakers have reported shortages of the types of rail cars needed for transporting their new vehicles to various destinations.
For one, BNSF Railway Co. is trying to step on the gas to accommodate the surging demand for new automobiles, company officials said last month in a BNSF blog. The Class I’s efforts have included:
• adding a dedicated operational design team focused on improving automotive velocity;
• identifying creative ways to deploy the railroad’s Auto-Max fleet in traditional bi-level autorack car lanes to reduce reliance on bi-levels and return more bi-levels to origin points awaiting rail-car supply;
• purchasing 740 bi-level autorack cars to supplement the fleet;
• restoring its dedicated automotive network; and
• launching rail-car pipeline management tools to provide manufacturers and truckers the visibility needed to improve the fluidity of destination facilities.
To learn more about the latest developments in the autorack rail-car market, Progressive Railroading reached out to car builders and component suppliers for updates on their latest offerings. Following are emailed responses from two builders and three autorack parts suppliers.
Rail cars carrying automobiles require protection from freight-yard impacts and in-train jostling. Amsted Rail’s 1/9 Active Draft Cushioning Units are designed to maintain compression at all times, providing optimal protection against both the draft and buff stresses that cars experience when a train starts or stops, company officials said.
Unlike a standard cushioning unit — which is metal-on-metal with a neutral position that’s fully extended — the Active Draft Cushioning Unit features polymer pads that stop the unit short. That enables travel in both the buff and draft directions, protecting the rail car and lading from in-train shocks and yard impacts, Amsted Rail officials said.
The design’s benefits include less stress on knuckles and less opportunity for undesired events, they added.
Greenbrier designs and manufactures multilevel auto carrier rail cars engineered to maximize transport capacity while reducing the risks of damage and vandalism to the vehicles inside.
The company’s newest offering is the Multi-Max Plus™, which was designed with extensive input from major railroads and car manufacturers, Greenbrier officials said. The Multi-Max Plus has been reengineered to safely transport high-profile trucks and vans with a 20-foot, two-inch hinging deck.
The deck can be easily configured as a bi-level or low bi-level, Greenbrier officials said. That capability allows adjustments to be made onsite at loading locations, which saves automotive shippers time and money, they added.
It’s compatible with existing bi-level fleets and comes equipped with Greenbrier’s patented door design, which can reduce theft and vandalism incidents by restricting access to the rack interior and roof.
Miner Enterprises provides several key components for autorack cars, including new and retrofit constant-contact side bearings; brake beams that significantly reduce brake shoe replacement costs; and grating products designed for rail-car running boards and end platforms.
Miner TecsPak® Constant Contact (TCC) side bearings are designed to provide maximum rail-car protection while minimizing car lifecycle costs. Both the TCC-IV series and TCC-III models also provide superior truck hunting; improve rail-car performance through track curves; and maximize car body roll control and energy absorption, Miner officials said.
Additionally, the company’s constant contact side bearings retrofit kits help railroad and fleet operator maintenance teams extend service life across most car types.
Miner Series 2008 Brake Beams are designed to minimize uneven brake shoe wear, which reduces brake shoe replacement costs by as much as 20%, according to Miner. Notched brake heads reduce beam binding for more consistent braking, and an innovative reversible strut allows for quick conversion of the hand of the beam.
Integrated splined bushings stay secure to deliver 10-times longer service life than nonbushed beams, Miner officials said. The result is a long-lasting, prolonged service life and better braking performance.
TrinityRail® provides rail transportation products and services that include a focus on finished automobiles and light trucks. The company offers conventional tri-level and bi-level autoracks with standard galvanized roof, side screens and other features that include TrinityRail’s SealSafe Radial Door®.
TrinityRail’s Hourglass™ bi-level autorack features an increased interior width for improved ergonomics and greater throughput while promoting enhanced damage prevention to the finished vehicles, company officials said. Individuals can more easily pass by vehicles inside the rack, which reduces or eliminates scratches and handprints while providing additional room to apply wheel chocks and vehicle restraints.
TrinityRail also offers transportation solutions for specialty vehicles, including larger transit and commercial vans.
Moreover, TrinityRail manufactures and distributes replacement parts, including roof sheets, doors and other parts. In addition to the SealSafe Radial Door® for enhanced security, the TTM® low-profile restraint system is available for securing automobiles during transit in tri-level autoracks.
Holden America — which Trinity Industries Inc. acquired in January — is a manufacturer of market-leading multilevel vehicle securement and protection systems. Its chock systems provide safe and secure rail transportation of finished vehicles, TrinityRail officials said. Reconditioning and replacement of damaged chocks also are available.
In addition, TrinityRail provides recertification, repair, maintenance and autorack conversions. The RecertPlus™ program — which is offered at the Autorack Service Center in Cartersville, Georgia — seeks to upgrade and optimize the North American autorack pool.
Wabtec offers a comprehensive selection of autorack rail-car products designed to secure and protect vehicles while in transit.
The company’s catalogue includes repair/replacement products for all end doors, including newer composite end doors such as the Operating Rod Splice and panel repair/parts for pre-trip locations versus bad ordering rail cars. Wabtec’s EdgeGard® II Door Protection System has been validated at 99.3% effectiveness.
Thirty years ago, Wabtec supplied the first modern-day chock to secure vehicles with its CoPoly chock (Designation A). The industry has sunset these CoPoly chocks to be replaced with newer securements — either LoPro II or Hybrid (Designation D) chocks — by Jan. 1, 2024. In addition, Designation B chocks have a sunset date of Jan. 1, 2025.
Wabtec offers its Sta-Put™ bi-level chock as well as an improved grating system. The chock incorporates an intermediate height setting to accommodate the tighter clearances of tri-level product being shipped on bi-levels. It is also fully field repairable versus sending the chock in to be reconditioned, Wabtec officials said.
An offset bridge plate/hinge has been developed to address the loading of wider wheelbase vehicles while still accommodating the narrowest, they added. The offset hinge can be supplied for retrofit applications to current in-service bridge plates.
Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.