America’s integrated transportation network of trains, trucks and barges carries 54 tons of goods and commodities for every American in a single year. This staggering haul contains the ingredients that are essential to the nation’s modern economy and our way of life: from the steel that frames our skyscrapers to the grain that feeds the world.
Freight rail serves a unique and integral role in this transportation network. When shippers need to go big, rail is ready. A single train can carry an incredible load of cargo efficiently, providing shippers a reliable and cost-effective way to meet their business needs.
The efficiencies achieved by freight rail benefit rail customers, consumers and the broader economy. To see an example of this, simply head over to your local car dealer or scan the many vehicles — cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans in every color, shape and size — on any highway or street. Each one has been designed by auto manufacturers to meet any driver’s taste and any family’s needs.
Such abundance and variety is possible because car manufacturers can roll out thousands of new vehicles in a single day. And that scale of production and delivery to consumers is possible because freight trains can move the raw materials, auto parts and millions of finished automobiles coast to coast seamlessly. At every stage of the production life of an automobile, freight rail serves a role. In 2015, automakers sold a record 17.5 million cars and light trucks in the United States, an achievement made possible by freight railroads and the larger integrated transportation network. How do you move that many vehicles? Well, a single train can move 750 vehicles at once.
Freight rail’s economy of scale serves car manufacturers, as well as industries and companies throughout the country — paper mills, power plants, big box stores and more. Today, rail customers can ship nearly twice as much freight for approximately the same price that they paid 35 years ago. That means manufacturers are better positioned to scale up to serve an existing market or to create a new one. Whether it’s to deliver auto parts for new cars or drywall for new homes, freight rail is ready to make it happen.
In business, reliability is critical, and freight rail customers can count on railroads to serve their transportation needs. America’s freight railroads spend an average of $25 billion a year in private investments to maintain and modernize their rail network — rather than relying on taxpayer funding. It’s just another way that rail feeds the infrastructure that feeds the economy.
So the next time you marvel at the endless gleaming options at a car lot, remember freight rail — and the work we do to deliver for our customers so that they can deliver for you.