North American Locomotive Fleet Fell in 2021

The North American locomotive fleet declined in 2021.

A report by Railinc, a subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, said the decline reflects economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the prevalence of the precision scheduled railroading operating philosophies of most Class 1 railroads.

The fleet was 37,988 units at the end of 2021, a decline of 465 units compared with the end of 2020.

The average age of the fleet was 29.2 years and the median age was 24.8 years.

It was the 12th consective year in which the average and median ages increased.

The Railinc report said most new additions to the locomotive fleet continue to be six-axle locomotives using alternating current traction motors.

Overall, direct current traction continued to make up 62 percent of the North American fleet. AC traction has increased 12 percent since 2011. The decline of size of the North American fleet continued a trend that began in 2018.

Just five new locomotives joined the fleet in 2021. In 2020 the fleet added 77 new units. It was the fifth consecutive year the fleet has grown by few than 500 new units.

Fifty-six percent of the locomotives in the North American fleet have horsepower ratings of 4,000 or higher.

Locomotives between 2,000 and 3,999 horsepower comprised 33 percent of the fleet.

Six-axle locomotives make up 68 percent of the North American locomotive fleet, the first time in a decade this share has remained stagnant. Most of these units have been built within the past 30 years.

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