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Today's Railroads


the most environmentally sound way to move goods over land. 

This is achieved through the use of cleaner and greener technologies and more efficient operating practices.

  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emission: Trains, on average, are four times more fuel efficient than trucks. That means that moving freight by rail instead of trucks reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 75%. If just 5% of ​freight moved by truck traveled by rail instead, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by approximately nine million tons. Check out the Carbon Calculator​​ below to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide that can be prevented from entering our environment just by using freight rail instead of trucks.

  • Improving Fuel Efficiency: In 2015, railroads ​moved, on average, one ton of goods 468 miles on a single gallon of fuel.

  • Reducing Highway Gridlock: ​A single freight train can take the load of several hundred trucks off the nation’s overcrowded highways. Moving freight by rail also reduces the pressure to build costly new roads and helps cut the cost of maintaining existing ones.


Freight Rail Innovations Help the Environment

Railroads bring new technological innovations to market, make new investments in equipment, and improve operations. The result: rail freight volume is nearly double what it was in 1980, while railroads’ fuel consumption remains relatively flat.

  • Hauling Greater Loads: Thanks to improved freight car design and other factors, the average freight train carries almost 3,500 tons of freight today, up from 2,222 tons in 1980, 2,755 tons in 1990, and 2,923 tons in 2000.
  • New, Efficient Locomotives: Freight​ railroads have purchased thousands of new, more efficient locomotives, including many “Gensets” that have several independent engines that turn on and off depending on how much power is needed to perform a particular task. In addition, many older, less fuel efficient locomotives have been retired from service
  • New Technologies and Products: Freight railroads have installed new idling reduction technologies, such as stop-start systems that shut down a locomotive when it is not in use and restart it when needed. Plus, improved rail lubrication reduces friction in the wheel-rail interface, saving fuel and reducing wear and tear on track and locomotives.
  • Advanced Software: New, highly advanced computer software systems can calculate the most fuel-efficient speed for a train over a given route, determine the most efficient spacing and timing of trains on a railroad’s system, and monitor locomotive functions and performance to ensure peak efficiency.   

Railroads Support Local Communities

Railroads contribute to more than just the economic health for their communities; they also help enhance the quality of life. At local freight rail facilities, railroads help preserve the environment by improving resource management and conservation efforts through recycling and waste management programs. They also develop strong relationships with their local communities and encourage employees to participate in volunteer and community outreach efforts. Railroads partner with a variety of national and local organizations, charities, and non-profits such as the American Red Cross.​​

Railroad Sustainability Information