Most lumber dealers experience with wood-ties (aka railroad ties) are usually limited to selling used ones that have been taken up from track beds and which homeowners and landscapers use as part of a decorative feature. However, they are essential in the movement of goods and passengers via rail across North America. Even through the pandemic demand for new ties has been steady to strong as maintenance-of-way (MOW) is an ongoing process. The fact that their manufacturing was considered an ‘essential business’ allowed production to continue. Demand for rail ties has been consistent, in 2018 18.546 million were installed and as of September 16.259 million have been delivered. However, demand for the remaining wood fiber, which is typically used in pallets, shipping containers, or mating for the oil and gas industry have steadily declined since the pandemic began. As a result, several mills have been forced to limit their production capacity as to not have an excess of lower demand products on the ground. In the East ties are usually made of hardwood lumber, while in the West Douglas Fir as well as hardwoods are commonly used. The recent hurricanes and wildfires have increased demand for ties as railroads inspect and rebuild track beds damaged or destroyed by the natural disasters. Increasing demand but leaving producers with the question of what to do with the remaining wood fiber.
FEA compiles the Wood Markets News from various 3rd party sources to provide readers with the latest news impacting forest product markets. Opinions or views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of FEA.
Annual wood tie market update 2020