GTS Blog

5 Facts You Didn't Know About Rail

Posted by Ascent Global Logistics on Mar 28, 2017 5:50:38 PM


Did you know that America has the largest rail network in the world, with twice as much track as China? And while rail isn’t the primary mode of transport for consumers, it has once again started to aid logistics infrastructure.

In our previous post about the American Railway, we highlighted the fact that the U.S. rail system is once again, as in times past, stepping up to help our domestic supply chain. Increased jobs, farming support and better infrastructure are just a few of the benefits of adding rail back into America’s transport system.

This post will cover five facts that you probably didn’t know about the American rail system and its aid to the shipment of domestic goods. 

  1.     U.S. freight rail is a $60 billion dollar industry with 140,000 rail miles operated by seven main railroads, each bringing in a revenue of at least $433 million dollars. This breaks down to 21 regional railroads and 510 local railroads.
  2.     The American rail system moves more freight than any other rail system worldwide. It also provides 221,000 jobs nationally and allows for several community benefits: reduction in road congestion and highway fatalities, lowering of fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and lessening of overall logistics costs and public infrastructure maintenance costs.
  3.     U.S. freight railroads are private organizations -- they are responsible for their own maintenance and do not rely on government financial support. They invest a very large amount of money into their own system to maintain and add capacity.
  4.     About 40% of U.S. freight is moved by “ton-miles” -- the length freight travels. Rail is a huge benefit for bulk shipping of common goods, such as grain and coal, and a wide variety of consumer goods.
  5.     Each person in the U.S. requires 40 tons of freight moved every year! Many of the goods that Americans use every day are wholly shipped or contain portions of material that have been shipped by rail. 

It’s clear that rail is an integral part of America’s logistics network, especially for heavy freight that needs to travel long distances. And while trucks are excellent for shipping time-sensitive, high-value commodities, rail is the key to transporting raw materials across the country.

What does the future look like for rail? Well, America is becoming increasingly urbanized, turning to larger areas of metropolitan regions, called “megaregions.” This results in more freight and passenger traffic, congestion and lessening of productivity. Rail can be utilized here through public-private partnerships that continue to fund and support innovative rail transport. Rail modal will become more competitive as intermodal transport brings efficiencies and greater quality of life by minimizing traffic congestion and pollution.

Visit the GTS blog to learn more about logistics and freight management.


Topics: Supply Chain, Freight, Logistics