Rail losing steam

Tightening schedules has generated a lot of productivity improvements:
  • Dwell time in the yards down (NS was 25.5 hours – now 18)
  • Average miles per day per car up (up 7% on the UP)
  • Operating ratio improved (CSX was 67% last year – now 59%)
But this “precision railroading” has been offset by lower coal volume (down 50% over the past 10 years), import/export concerns, and intermodal softness.  There seems to be a switch back to truck as railroads continue to push prices up while truckers cut their rates.