Trends in Freight Railroad Rates and Competition (GAO-07-292SP), an E-supplement to GAO-07-291R
Read the Full Report Freight Railroads: Updated Information on Rates and Other Industry Trends (GAO-07-291R)
This e-publication supplements our report "Freight Railroads: Updated Information
on Rates and Other Industry Trends" GAO-07-291R
(Washington, D.C.: August 2007) by presenting our analysis of the Surface
Transportation Board’s (STB) Carload Waybill Sample.1 We analyzed the data in
this database and present trends across the industry, for certain commodities,
by state, and for certain routes, by shipment size and length of haul.
Scope and MethodologyWe used STB’s Carload Waybill Sample to identify railroad rates, revenue-to-variable-cost (R/VC) ratios2 , and other data from 1985 through 2005 (the latest year for which data was available at the time of this review). The Carload Waybill Sample is a sample of railroad waybills (in general, documents prepared from bills of lading that authorize railroads to move shipments and collect freight charges); the sample contains information on rail rates. Since much of the information in the Carload Waybill Sample is confidential, we aggregated rail rates and other data sufficiently to protect confidentiality. We present this data from 1985 through 2005 in a series of charts and tables, including:
• A rate index3
• total tonnage
• freight revenue
• the share of tonnage on private cars
• miscellaneous revenue4
• various R/VC data.
For some commodity, state, and route data, such as total tonnage and freight revenue, we also present maximum, minimum, and mean values. We also list much of this data in tables, where the user can compare data across commodities, states, and routes.
It is important to note that while this e-supplement provides useful information on the freight railroad industry, limitations exist, and therefore the data must be interpreted with caution. For example, it is possible for the data to show the R/VC ratio increasing, potentially indicating a lack of competitive alternatives for a shipper—when the rate paid by the shipper is in fact declining. For a more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology, including limitations of the data, please visit our scope and methodology page. We performed our work from October 2006 through June 2007 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
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- If you have questions concerning these data, please contact JayEtta Hecker, Director, at (202) 512-2834 or Heckerj@gao.gov