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February 2020

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

From the editor: Finance and leasing execs expect a challenging year


By Pat Foran, Editor

The economy’s growing (slightly), the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s been signed into law by the United States and Mexico, and phase 1 of a trade agreement with China has been signed. One result: 2020’s prospects for the rail finance and leasing sector look a little better than they did just a couple months ago, as rail-car market analyst Richard Kloster writes in our 20th Annual Finance & Leasing Guide. But “a little better” isn’t enough to move the outlook needle for execs in this industry segment, if responses to our annual Finance & Leasing Guide survey are any indication.

Last month, we asked a cross section of rail finance and leasing officials the same big-picture questions we’ve been asking them around this time for a dozen years, including: “Will this year be better than last year? Same? Worse? Why?” The number of responses we received was lower than it’s been in previous years, with more than a few execs (in follow-up phone calls) saying they didn’t feel confident enough to predict anything these days.

Among those who did respond, most said 2020 will be “worse” or more “challenging” than last year was. They cited rail-car oversupply concerns, decreasing lease rates and precision scheduled railroading. Those representing the half-full contingent said they see possible silver linings in 2020 because of expected improvements in trade (post-pact signings) and stronger consumer markets. You can read their responses here.

Send us your 2020 Rising Stars nominations

Last month, we opened the nomination process for our eighth annual Rising Stars Awards, a recognition program for up-and-coming leaders in the North American rail industry. Progressive Railroading defines a Rising Star as someone under the age of 40 who is making a positive difference in his or her company, department or team, and is viewed by others — peers, colleagues, supervisors, clients or associates — as a rising star in the rail industry.

This year, we’ll select 25 Rising Stars and publish their profiles in our September issue. Also, the Rising Stars of 2020 will be honored at a recognition dinner on July 20 in Chicago.

Nominees must be younger than 40 years of age on Sept. 1, 2020, and currently work in North America’s rail industry. Rising Star candidates must be willing to participate in our process, answer questions from our staff and supply a photo for publication.

To nominate a Rising Star, fill out the form at In a written statement, explain how the nominee goes above and beyond to make a difference in the railroad industry.

Candidates will be considered based on criteria such as their contributions to railroading, career achievements, demonstrated leadership, education, training and professional association activity or community involvement. The nomination deadline is Feb. 28. Questions? Call Senior Associate Editor Julie Sneider at 414-228-7701, ext. 517, or email her at

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.