Railcars as Economic Indicators

With the nation locked in the firm grips of recession, one indicator of our country’s import demand and manufacturing capacity is being stockpiled in Montana. Just south of Great Falls, along the Missouri River, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Co. is stockpiling flatbed container cars – a lot of flatbed cars. By some accounts, there are about 1,500 railcars, or 1.5 percent of the North American flatbed fleet and roughly 5 percent of the BNSF fleet, parked between Great Falls and Helena suggesting that Americans are buying and importing less from foreign manufacturers and manufacturing less for foreign consumption. If and when they are brought back into rotation will depend on freight demand – driven by American consumption.