Generating quite a bit of press coverage over the past few days, a new gondola railcar designed as part of a joint venture between US Steel, Norfolk Southern Railroad and Greenbrier was revealed. The new design uses a high strength steel reportedly adapted from the automotive industry into an updated standard sized 52-foot 6 inch inside length gondola. The parties indicate several advantages from the new design, including a lower-tare weight, reduced strengthening components translating to increased ease of loading, all coupled with more durable coatings and durability. The result is higher payloads (this is a 286,000 lb. gross weight on rail rated car), with lower life-time maintenance costs expected. Certainly, a significant improvement.

Two days ago, Freightwaves published an article titled “Shippers convert back to rail out of California as truckload costs continue to rise”. They indicated that truckload volumes have “dropped sharply after Thanksgiving”, by approximately 11%. At the same time, they report that intermodal rail shipments are increasing and appear much more cost-effective currently. We are not yet convinced this trend is in place but would welcome continuing signs of increasing rail intermodal shipments, which the overall data does not yet really show a convincing pattern.