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 2-12). The average age of locomotives was 14 years in fiscal year 2001, up 8 percent from 13 years in fiscal year 1991. Meanwhile, the age of Amtrak railcars dropped from 21 to 19 years over this period. Of the 20,744 Class I freight locomotives in service in 2003, 33 percent were built before 1980, 17 percent between 1980 and 1989, and 50 percent from 1990 onwards [1].

Over 32 percent of the U.S.-flag vessel fleet (almost 13,000 vessels) was 25 years old or more in 2003, up from 19 percent (over 7,500 vessels) in 1993 [2]. However, during the same period, the percentage of the fleet less than 6 years old grew from 11 percent (more than 4,300 vessels) to 16 percent (nearly 6,400 vessels). Of the various components of the fleet, the offshore support fleet was one of the youngest in 2003 with 20 percent of its vessels under 6 years old and 24 percent over 25 years old. The towboat fleet had the highest proportion of older ships (60 percent) in 2003 (figure 2-13).

The average age of U.S. commercial aircraft was 12 years in 2002, up from 11 years in 1992 (figure 2-14). 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 78 percent of commercial aircraft in 2002 [3]. These aircraft were approximately one year younger on average than all commercial aircraft during the 1990s, but the gap narrowed in 2001, and by 2002 the average age of both categories was the same (12 years).


1. Association of American Railroads, Railroad Facts 2004 (Washington, DC: 2004), pp. 49-50.

2. U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), National Transportation Statistics 2005, table 1-31, available at, as of June 2005.

3. ______. calculations using data from USDOT, BTS, Form 41, Schedule B-43, 1992-2002.