In the digital age, speed and efficiency are everything.
Emails are delivered in the blink of an eye, supply chains are managed using just-in-time strategies, algorithms adjust GPS navigation systems in hundredths of a second and products are purchased with the click of a mouse and delivered nationwide the very next day.
Due in part to the on-demand nature of this modern economy, pressure on America’s transportation system is growing. In fact, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration estimates that total U.S. freight shipments will see a 37% increase by 2040.
And while demand continues to grow, increasing the capacity of our highways, runways and waterways is more difficult than ever before. Perhaps most noticeably, highway maintenance and construction have failed to keep pace with the growth in motor vehicle traffic, particularly as governments face shrinking budgets. As a result, many public officials are looking to private companies to innovate and invest to meet this growing demand for infrastructure and freight railroad companies are delivering.
Unlike other modes of freight transportation, railroads operate almost exclusively on infrastructure that they own, build and maintain themselves — a model of vertical integration that has allowed them to quickly respond to the growing capacity challenge.
Since 1980, freight railroads have spent $660 billion of their own money to purchase new equipment and improve rail lines and facilities — from upgrading signal control systems, to replacing aging bridges and expanding the capacity of intermodal yards. Railroads also use innovation to add additional capacity on the existing network. Trains have been improved to carry more cargo in a single journey, freight cars have been designed to carry specialized goods and sophisticated control systems have been installed to track and coordinate freight movement every step of the way.
Technology also helps fuel America’s freight railroads, giving them a modern network to meet the transportation challenges of today and tomorrow. Part of freight rail’s billions in investments have gone towards innovative tech that allows railroads to move freight more efficiently, safely and cleanly than ever before:
- Trackside sensors allow railroads to monitor the health of 140,000 miles of track, helping reduce mainline train accidents by 32% since 2008.
- Advanced locomotives get 470 MPG per ton, helping railroads efficiently transport 1.6 billion tons each year.
- Smart logistics help railroads manage a fleet of 26,000 locomotives, allowing them to move twice as much freight for nearly the same price as 35 years ago — savings that can be passed on to the consumer.
Throughout history, railroads have worked to meet the needs of American businesses and consumers by growing rail network capacity and innovating to meet the demands of tomorrow. Today, America’s freight railroads continue to answer the call.