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As the 2016 election unfolds, candidates regularly discuss the need for accelerated economic growth and greater prosperity for more Americans. Freight railroads, which generated nearly $274 billion in output, 1.5 million jobs and $33 billion taxes in 2014 alone, move the United States economy, driving commerce by safely, efficiently and affordably connecting businesses, goods and people. The industry is a critical connector, indispensable to the nation's economy, moving a variety and large quantity of goods required for a modern economy and quality of life.
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Get to Know Freight Rail: 10 Fast FactsMacro Policy RecommendationsAAR Policy Positions Deep Dive
1. The U.S. rail network spans over 140,000 miles.
America's privately owned freight
rail network spans over 140,000 miles and is made up of 107.3 billion pounds of steel – enough to build 6,667
Eiffel Towers. If the network were laid end to end, it would make 5.6 trips around the earth.
2. Freight rail helps maintain our quality of life.
Freight rail plays a crucial role in
maintaining our quality of life in a number of different ways. They transport the
chemicals used to purify our drinking water, fertilizers used to grow crops, cars that move workers and families and materials to build homes and businesses.
3. Freight rail serves many customers.
serves myriad customers, including nearly every industrial, wholesale, retail and resource-based sector of the economy. Adjusted for inflation, rail rates have fallen 42 percent since 1981.
4. Freight railroads are
unique in their scale of operations.
One rail car of wheat is enough to produce 258,000
loaves of bread; one rail car of coal is enough to provide electricity for 21 homes for a year;
one train can carry 750 automobiles and one rail car of corn is enough to supply the lifetime feed requirements of around 37,000 broiler chickens.
5. Freight rail has a huge economic impact.
economic impact of the industry is staggering: In 2014, freight railroads generated $274 billion in economic activity and $33 billion in tax revenue. The impact of rail spending in 2014 was nearly equal to the GDP of Finland, and the industry's state and local tax generation was greater than the taxes collected by 30 individual states.
6. Freight rail helps support jobs in many industries across the country.
supported nearly 1.5 million jobs—and $88 billion in wages—in a number of different industries across the country in 2014.
7. Freight rail helps move huge amounts for each American.
Together with trucks and barges, freight trains
help move an average
54 tons of goods per American each year.
8. Freight rail is
one of the most
environmentally friendly ways to move cargo.
A freight train can move a ton of freight 473 miles on only
one gallon of fuel. Moving freight by rail instead of truck leads to a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
9. Railroads have spent $26 billion in private money over the last five years.
make huge investments to ensure operations are as smooth and efficient as possible, spending around $26 billion a year over the last five years in private money—not taxpayer funds—to modernize equipment, maintain infrastructure and develop innovative technology.
10. The American freight rail network is one of the
safest freight transportation networks in the entire world.
Freight rail moves 2.5 million carloads of plastics, fertilizers and other chemicals from coast to coast every year. A full
99.999 percent of shipments containing hazardous materials reach their destinations without incident. And in 2015, nearly 2,000 first responders learned how to handle derailments at the industry's testing headquarters in Colorado, while more than 800 received online training.
The freight railroad industry recognizes that to spur significant economic growth, policymakers must advance macro-policies that extend beyond railroads. We call on all candidates to advance these important policies:
Free trade helps small businesses reach new markets, diversifies inventory of available goods and fosters the competition that undergirds American capitalism. Efficiencies and productivity gains have reduced the manufacturing work force. But still today, one in four manufacturing jobs depends on exporting goods, and according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, factories have nearly doubled output over the last twenty years. Trade today supports 40 million quality jobs. We must ensure that current and future agreements are fair and put American workers first, but we must not turn our backs on the free trade agreements that have brought prosperity to American workers. A new administration should further the work of the Obama Administration, cementing deals with European and Asia-Pacific nations while strengthening ties with Canada and Mexico.