Freight rail is a crucial part of an integrated network of trains, trucks and barges that ships around 57 tons of goods per American every year, moving the food we eat, the cars we drive and the clothes we wear.
Historically, coal has generated more electricity than any other fuel, and railroads deliver around 70% of coal delivered to power plants. Railroads also carry enormous amounts of corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains; fertilizers, plastic resins, and a vast array of other chemicals; cement, sand, and crushed stone to build our highways; lumber and drywall to build our homes; autos and auto parts; animal feed, canned goods, corn syrup, flour, frozen chickens, beer, and countless other food products; steel and other metal products; crude oil, liquefied gases, and other petroleum products; paper products; iron ore and scrap metal for steelmaking; and much more.
Rail intermodal is the movement of shipping containers and truck trailers by rail. It’s been the fastest growing major rail traffic segment over the past 25 years and set a new annual volume record in 2018. Just about everything you find on a retailer’s shelves may have traveled on an intermodal train. Around half of rail intermodal consists of imports or exports, reflecting the vital role intermodal plays in international trade.
In the future, transportation demand will grow. Recent forecasts from the FHA found that total U.S. freight shipments will rise an estimated 30% by 2040. By investing nearly $26 billion each year back into their 140,000-mile network, freight railroads are ensuring grow capacity for the commodities America depends on.