Age of Rail, Aircraft, and Maritime Vessel Fleets

Age of Rail, Aircraft, and Maritime Vessel Fleets

The average age of Amtrak locomotives and passenger train cars fluctuated in a narrow range for most of the 1990s (figure 11-12). The average age of locomotives was 14 years in fiscal year 2001, up 8 percent from 13 years in fiscal year 1991. Meanwhile, Amtrak railcar age dropped from 21 to 19 years over this period. Of the 20,503 Class I freight locomotives in service in 2002, 35 percent were built before 1980, 18 percent between 1980 and 1989, and 47 percent from 1990 onwards [1].

Overall, 30 percent of the U.S.-flag vessel fleet was 25 years old or more in 2001, up from 17 percent in 1990–19911 [2]. However, during the same period, the percentage of the fleet less than six years old grew from 8 percent to 20 percent. Of the various components of the fleet, only support ships and dry barges have a greater number of newer vessels (19 percent and 24 percent, respectively) than older ones (17 percent and 23 percent) (figure 11-13). The towboat fleet had the highest proportion of older ships (55 percent) in 2001. The average age of U.S. commercial aircraft was 12 years in 2001, up from 11 years in 1991 (figure 11-14). Commercial airlines are air carriers providing scheduled or nonscheduled passenger or freight service, including commuter and air taxi on-demand services. Major airlines—those with $1 billion or more in annual revenues—accounted for 83 percent of commercial aircraft in 2001 [3]. These aircraft were approximately one year younger on average than all commercial aircraft during the 1990s, but the gap narrowed in 2001. The average age of major airlines aircraft was 12 years in 2001, up from 11 years in 1991.


1. Association of American Railroads, Railroad Facts 2003 (Washington, DC: 2003), pp. 49–50.

2. U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), National Transportation Statistics 2002, table 1-31 revised, available at, as of January 2004.

3. _____. calculation based on USDOT, BTS, Form 41, Schedule B-43, 1991–2001.

1 These waterborne vessel data are normally surveyed as of December 31 each year. However, due to a system migration of the data in 1990, the annual survey was collected in June 1991, or half way between the dates when 1990 and 1991 data would otherwise have been collected.