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Freight Rail

The Engine That Moves America

For more than 180 years, railroads have united a nation, revolutionized transportation, and catalyzed economic development. Today, freight railroads connect thousands of American communities to the global economy and operate the most efficient and cost-effective freight rail system in the world. As a result, customers — and consumers — save billions of dollars each year. Freight railroads help ease highway congestion, save energy, and reduce carbon emissions. Almost two hundred years after the first American freight train rumbled down a track, America’s railroads remain the backbone of the nation’s economy and the engine that moves America.

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    Our NetworkThe Foundation​ for America's Economy

Operating across nearly 140,000 miles, U.S. freight railroads manage a complex nationwide rail system efficiently, reliably and affordably. As a result, the U.S. is home to the most efficient and cost-effective rail system in the world, benefitting U.S. businesses and consumers. But railroad's impact on the U.S. economy goes well beyond their tracks. U.S. rail industry spending supports $274 billion in economic activity each year. So, for every dollar railroads spend, ten dollars in economic activity is generated. From 1980 to 2016, privately-owned freight railroads spent more than $630 billion of their own funds on locomotives, freight cars, tracks, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure and equipment to keep the economy moving. In 2017, America's freight railroads project to spend an estimated $22 billion to sustain and enhance the network on which America's economy rides.​

Learn more about the freight rail network

Our Customers Delivering for American Industry and Consumers

From construction to automotive to energy, freight railroads serve almost every industrial, wholesale, retail and resource-based sector of the economy. Each day, railroads deliver an average of five million tons of goods, making them a critical component of the nation’s integrated transportation network that ships 54 tons of goods annually for each American. In today’s global economy, American railroads also play a key role in the nation’s ability to compete in markets around the world, hauling approximately one-third of U.S. exports to ports and other distribution centers around the nation. As the economy grows, railroads will continue to provide the foundation on which U.S. businesses rely.
Learn more about the commodities and products freight trains carry

Consumer Goods
13.7 Million

trailers and containers consisting mainly of consumer products

Coal5.2 Million

carloads, enough to power approximately 78 percent of American homes

Chemicals2.4 Million

carloads of essential chemicals that keep our drinking water clean and our farms bountiful.

Paper & Lumber1.3 Million

carloads of lumber and paper products, including wood used to
build homes.

Motor Vehicles
1.9 Million

carloads of finished vehicles, parts and accessories that support America's auto industry.

Agricultural & Food Products
1.6 Million

carloads of wheat, corn and other agricultural products for use throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Other Commodities

Railroads carry huge amounts of metallic ores, petroleum, nonmetallic minerals, cement and many other products.

Our PeopleA World-Class Workforce

The U.S. freight rail industry employs approximately 166,000 highly skilled professionals who are among the best compensated workers in the nation. The average rail employee earns 60 percent more than the average U.S. employee. With competitive wages and benefits, technical training and professional growth opportunities, freight rail employees often stay in the industry for the entirety of their career and have family railroad legacies that stretch back through generations. Railroads are also military-friendly employers with nearly a quarter of current employees having served their country. With careers in fields such as train operations, information technology systems and law enforcement, railroads offer a wide range of opportunities for any skill set.
Learn more about the railroad industry's 21st Century workforce.



Our ValuesCommitted to Safe and Sustainable Operations

Railroads not only deliver economic prosperity to towns and cities across America, they also strive to be responsible members of those communities. From cutting edge technologies that increase fuel efficiency to first responder training programs in communities, railroads undertake numerous initiatives to improve the safety and reduce the environmental impacts of their business operations. And those efforts have paid off: freight rail is not only the most environmentally sound way to move goods over land, it is also one of the safest.
Learn more about the industry's safety and sustainability efforts​​



Our Legacy Delivering for America in the 21st Century

The driving of the Golden Spike in 1869 brought with it a new era of transportation that would transform the United States into the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth. Today, railroads continue to play an important role in the growth of our nation. In small towns and big cities across the United States, the whistle of the freight train is the sound of industries, jobs, and an economy in motion. Just as they did in the early years of our nation, America’s freight railroads will continue to deliver prosperity across America — now and for generations to come.

A Timeline of our history