This rate tells us how many railcars are required to carry rail freight.
Railcar Utilization Rate calculates the percentage of the total population of railcars that are required to move the N.A. rail freight.
In general, a figure above 90% indicates a tight market where the majority of the railcar population is at work. A figure below 80% indicates a weak market where a significant portion of the population is idle or underutilized.
Why does the FTR Rail Utilization Metric differ from sources like AAR?
Our railcar utilization figure is the number of railcars required to haul the freight in the system divided by the total fleet. Our number will always be lower than the utilization figure published by the Association of American Railroads because AAR removes any car from the fleet that has not moved in 60 days. This effectively reduces the denominator in the above calculation and leads to a higher overall utilization.
FTR does not remove cars from the fleet simply because they haven't moved in a given period because there are normal events in the life cycle of a railcar that could cause it not to move for 60 days. The most obvious event of this type is a railcar being shopped and not being released for at least 60 days. That car is still part of the active fleet even though it is having, in most cases, routine work done on it in a shop. For this reason, FTR chooses not to exclude these cars from the overall utilization calculation.