Historically, shipping rates grew slowly in the beginning of the decade before increasing almost 11% in 2005—the year twin derailments struck the Powder River Basin’s (PRB) heavily travelled Joint Line, affecting rail transport nationwide. From 2005 until the on-set of the Great Recession, rates have continued to grow at a relatively robust pace. But even the impacts of the recession on transportation rates was short-lived as rates grew by more than 9% in 2010—particularly as coal exports shifted traffic patterns.

“National numbers can be misleading, however, as regional dynamics tend to vary considerably among the six major coal basins,” the EIA said. “For example, Southern Appalachian coal costs increased more than 10% annually in 2001-10, while PRB rates grew 1.5% over the same period. For a few PRB destination states, rates fell during this period.” Though rail transportation costs for Appalachian and Illinois Basin coals as a percent of total delivered cost fall in the low 20% range, the relatively low cost of PRB coal, and the long distances it travels, results in transportation costs that averaged almost 60% of the total delivered cost in 2010—more than the cost of the coal itself.

In this latest release of Coal Transportation Rates to the Electric Power Sector, EIA has significantly expanded upon prior versions of this report with the incorporation of new EIA survey data. Another feature of this latest release is the incorporation for the first time of coal transport rates by barge and truck.

For more information, visit www.eia.gov.