Freight rail is critical to Americans’ everyday life – from serving critical industries nationwide to providing the literal foundation for passenger rail. Railroads are the safest and most fuel-efficient way to move goods over land and offer a viable solution to climate change while allowing America to compete globally. Freight rail also provides some of the best-compensated jobs in the nation.

We all learned it in school: molecules are the basic building blocks of life. Without them, our world as we know it would not exist. In much the same way, freight railroads provide the foundation that enables the world’s top economy to thrive.

For manufacturers and consumers, small and large businesses, energy companies and farmers, freight rail is the basic building block that allows a great sweep of economic activity to take place across the country. From providing some of the highest-paying jobs in America and protecting the environment through fuel-efficient operations to delivering the raw materials and finished goods you rely on every day, U.S. freight railroads significantly impact our economy, global trade and modern life.

America has the world’s safest and most cost-effective rail network thanks to the smart policies that allow railroads to privately invest billions into their networks each year. From 1980 to 2022, America’s freight railroads spent about $780 billion — averaging well over $23 billion a year over the past five years — on capital expenditures and maintenance expenses. 

Thanks to targeted investments, innovative technology and evolving operations, railroads are the most fuel-efficient way to move freight over land. Railroads want to be — and must be — a part of the solution to climate change. With policies grounded in data that encourage innovation, leverage market-based competition and allow for varied approaches among multiple stakeholders, freight railroads will deliver a more sustainable future for all.

Freight railroads are a critical link in the nation’s supply chain. During recent disruptions, railroads worked with customers to improve service and reliability by expanding network capacity, ensuring appropriate staffing levels and collaborating closely with trucking and other logistics partners. By moving raw materials and finished goods nationally and abroad, freight rail allows American industry to be more competitive while delivering the goods Americans rely on. Today, freight railroads continue to partner with their customers to find constructive ways to maintain network fluidity, especially at rail terminals.

Whether selling and building automobiles and houses, powering businesses or enabling manufacturers to reach new customers, American industries rely on freight rail to get raw goods and finished products to market in the U.S. and globally. Freight railroads are critical to the health of our economy and part of an integrated network of trains, trucks and barges that ships around 61 tons of goods per American every year.

Freight rail employees are highly skilled professionals who are among the best-compensated workers in the nation. In 2020, Class I freight rail employee compensation, including benefits, averaged about $135,700 per year. Freight railroads are committed to safeguarding their workforce and invest in training and new technologies to help make sure railroaders go home safely. The freight rail employee injury rate is lower than in most other industries and is at an all-time low.

Three types of rail systems (intercity passenger, commuter and freight) operate on the national rail network. Together, these trains help deliver economic growth, support job creation, provide crucial environmental benefits and increase our nation’s productivity and competitiveness. Freight railroads provide 70% of the train-miles operated by Amtrak, providing the literal foundation for this important passenger rail service.