We ship coal to our customers by rail, truck or barge. For the year ended December 31, 2014, the majority of our coal sales tonnage was shipped by rail. The majority of our coal is transported to customers by either the CSX Railroad or the Norfolk Southern Railroad in eastern Kentucky and by the Ohio Central Railroad or the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad in Ohio. In addition, in southeastern Ohio, we use our own trucking operations to transport coal to our customers where rail is not available. We use third-party trucking to transport coal to our customers in Utah. Shipments from our new Pennyrile mine in western Kentucky are transported to our customers via barge on the Green River as our Pennyrile property is adjacent to this waterway. In addition, coal from certain of our other mines is located within economical trucking distance to the Big Sandy River and/or the Ohio River and can be transported by barge.
It is customary for customers to pay the transportation costs to their location. We believe that we have good relationships with rail carriers and truck companies due, in part, to our modern coal-loading facilities at our loadouts and the working relationships and experience of our transportation and distribution employees.
Coal used for domestic consumption is generally sold free-on-board at the mine, and the purchaser normally bears the transportation costs. Export coal, however, is usually sold at the loading port, and coal producers are responsible for shipment to the export coal-loading facility, with the buyer paying the ocean freight.
Most electric generators arrange long-term shipping contracts with rail or barge companies to assure stable delivered costs. Transportation can be a large component of a purchaser’s total cost. Although the purchaser pays the freight, transportation costs still are important to coal mining companies because the purchaser may choose a supplier largely based on cost of transportation. Railroads account for a significant portion of transportation of U.S. coal shipments, while truck movements account for a much smaller portion. Trucks and overland conveyors haul coal over shorter distances, while barges, Great Lake carriers and ocean vessels move coal to export markets and domestic markets requiring shipment over the Great Lakes. Most coal mines are served by a single rail company, but much of the Powder River Basin is served by two competing rail carriers, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad. Rail competition in this major coal-producing region is important because rail costs constitute a significant portion of the delivered cost of Powder River Basin coal in eastern markets.