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Freight Rail: Moving American Industry

​​4 Ways Freight Rail Helps Move America

Every morning thousands of locomotives across America are powered up to deliver nearly everything America depends on. Each year, the nation's integrated transportation network of trains, trucks and barges efficiently deliver 54 tons of goods​ for every American. Learn more about what we haul.​

​​1. Intermodal: In It For The Long Haul 

From greeting cards and furniture to frozen chickens and computers, just about everything found on retailers’ shelves might have traveled on an intermodal train. With an ocean of consumer products and raw materials moving in and out of ​U.S. ports daily, manufacturers and distributors rely on intermodal transport to get goods to the ships on time or out for delivery across the nation to meet demand. And, this highly efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to ship goods is only growing. In 2014, North America’s railroads handled a record 17 million containers and trailers, more than ever before. As the fastest growing segment of business, the rail industry keeps intermodal transport competitive with billions of dollars in investments for new intermodal terminals, track upgrades and other infrastructure projects ensuring that your new shoes arrive on time and on budget.

2. Agriculture: From Train To Table 

Grain feeds America and its farm animals, and rail gets it there. From field to factory, rail is moving the vast quantities of barley, wheat, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghum and soybeans that the food industry depends on to keep grocery shelves stocked and barns full of well-fed animals. In 2013 alone, rail moved 1.3 million carloads or 124.5 million tons of grain across the country and to America’s ports for export. As the world’s top grain producer and exporter, the U.S. exports an average of 132 million tons per year with rail moving the lion’s share of product to ports. As demand for U.S. grain has grown, rail has responded with new high-capacity cars and efficient “shuttle trains” which move high volumes in an efficient and cost-effective way. So if it’s on your table, chances are it got there by rail.

3. Chemical: Rail’s Got Chemistry 

Safe, fast and efficient, rail makes the perfect partner for industries that keep drinking water clean, farms bountiful, cars and homes running efficiently, perishable foods packaged safely and medical care effective. Whether its plastics, soaps, drugs, fertilizers or any of the essential chemicals​ on a list that grows by the day, rail is ready. Freight railroads help ensure that chemical producers can continue to help enhance our health, safety and quality of life. Railroads’ continued private investment in the health of the nation’s 140,000 mile freight rail network has resulted in a strong safety record for moving hazardous materials of all kinds, including chemicals. Today, 99.999 percent of rail hazmat carloads reach their destination without a release caused by a train accident and rail hazmat accident rates are down 66 percent since 2000.

4. Automotive: Keeping The Auto Industry On Track


Consumers expect variety when they walk into a car dealership; they want to see all the latest in subcompacts, minivans, sedans and cross-overs. Getting all these makes and models from the manufacturing plant to the showroom in time to meet demand is no easy feat, but it’s exactly the kind of challenge rail is designed to meet. Each year, nearly 75% of the new cars and light trucks purchased in the United States—approximately 13 million in 2015—are moved by freight rail. As an affordable way to move goods on a massive scale, railroads are the preferred transportation provider of automotive industry. In fact, a single train can move approximately 750 automobiles—the ultimate model of scale and efficiency.​