How Trade Impacts Freight Rail

March 2017

The Association of American Railroads — the world’s leading railroad policy, research, standard-setting and technology organization of the U.S. freight rail industry — assessed the role that trade plays for freight railroads. Analysis conducted in 2018 shows spending by Class I railroads (the seven largest U.S. freight railroads) created nearly $220 billion in economic activity, generated about $26 billion in state and federal tax revenues and supported approximately 1.1 million jobs nationally in 2017 alone. The data regarding trade show a huge swath of freight rail operations — in terms of personnel, equipment and
revenue — are directly supported by the international trade that American companies conduct. In fact, analysis shows:

  • 42% of rail carloads and intermodal units are directly associated with international trade.
  • 35% of annual rail revenue is directly associated with international trade.
  • 50,000 rail jobs, worth over $5.5 billion in annual wages and benefits, depend directly on international trade.

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