The Positive Environmental Effects of Increased Freight by Rail Movements in America

June 2020

In this report, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) analyze data from the FHWA’s Freight Analysis Framework to estimate the impact on emissions of increased freight-by-rail movements in the U.S. The analysis shows:

  • If 25% of the truck traffic moving at least 750 miles were transported by rail instead, annual fuel savings would be some 1.2 billion gallons with a corresponding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 13.1 million tons.
  • If 50% of the truck traffic moving at least 750 miles were transported by rail instead, annual fuel savings would be approximately 2.3 billion gallons with a corresponding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 26.2 million tons.

This paper contextualizes how and why freight rail provides a solution that helps decrease the country’s carbon emissions and reduces transportation’s overall environmental impact. It also outlines related matters of public policy — including areas that would clearly deter increased freight-by-rail movements. In sum, while railroads will continue to modernize their operations and infrastructure to compete for and earn additional business, the industry presents a compelling case for reducing greenhouse emissions by increasing rail movements.

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