“Wheat usage has not changed markedly since 1994. Exports and food are still the primary uses of wheat, comprising 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively, of 2009 wheat use. Exports have averaged 48 percent of U.S. wheat production from 1994 to 2009, but are variable, ranging from 40 percent to 62 percent of production because of changes in world markets and world production. Smaller size shipments of wheat are still an important part of wheat markets. Although the percentage of wheat moved by shuttle-size shipments increased from 9 percent of the rail wheat tonnage in 1994 to 36 percent in 2009, shipment sizes of 6 to 49 railcars hauled 47 percent of the tonnage in 2009. Wheat shipments of 1 to 5 railcars decreased from 20 percent of the total tonnage in 1994 to 12 percent of the total in 2009. Wheat shipments of 50 to 74 railcars decreased from 19 percent of the total rail tonnage in 1994 to only 5 percent in 2009. The distance wheat was shipped has increased 33 percent since 1994. Wheat shipments between 20 and 500 miles decreased from 32 percent of the total in 1994 (15.1 million tons) to only 19 percent of the total in 2009 (8.3 million tons), a tonnage decrease of 45 percent. Most wheat is transported 501 to 1,000 miles, which increased from 40 percent of the total in 1994 (18.5 million tons) to 51 percent of the total in 2009 (22.7 million tons), a tonnage increase of 23 percent.”
Despite the overall push towards larger and longer hauls by the railroads to maximize efficiency, the shuttle market has not developed identically for each grain because of differences in exports, production, and usage. Wheat has been the most consistent of the five grains over the period of study, showing very little change in exports, production, or usage. Increased production of corn and soybeans due to increases in corn-based ethanol and soybean exports have led to shuttle-sized shipments.