Rail Freight Transportation Today
Today's freight railroads are considered faster, safer, and more efficient than ever. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) points out that the railroads together provide a cost effective system that ties local businesses together into one national economy - from farmers and manufactures, to e-commerce companies that need fast delivery. Over the past decades the railroad industry has continued to invest in new tracks, modern locomotives, freight cars and new communication systems to make the rail system "cleaner, greener and safer."
According to the AAR, a total of 562 common carrier freight railroads were operating in the United States at the end of 2005. These railroads employed approximately 187,000 workers, with an average wage of $66,975 and total compensation of nearly $91,000.
Major Freight Railroad Companies - Class 1 Railroads:
Today railroad companies are classified by the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission on the basis of gross revenue. The largest are considered Class I Railroads. The Class I railroads account for 68 percent of the mileage operated and 93 percent of freight revenue. The Class 1 railroads primarily provide long-haul, high-density intercity transportation. This list includes:
- Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) (formed by merger of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway with the Burlington Northern in 1995)
- CSX Transportation
- Grand Trunk Corporation (subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, includes former Grand Truck Western, Illinois Central and Wisconsin Central)
- Kansas City Southern Railway
- Norfolk Southern Railway Company
- Soo Line Railroad (subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway)
- Union Pacific Railroad (merged with Southern Pacific in 1996, merged company retained the name Union Pacific)
Canada Class 1 Freight Railroads:
Mexico Class 1 Freight Railroads:
- Ferrocarril Mexico (Ferromex)
- Kansas City Southern de México (subsidiary of Kansas City Southern, formerly Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM))
Regional and Short Line Railroads:
North American Regional Railroads are typically Class II railroads. As of 2011, a railroad with revenues greater than $37.4 million but less than $433.2 million for at least three consecutive years is considered Class II. North American Short Line Railroads are typically Class III railroads, earning less than 37.4 million anually. Class II and Class III railroads include:
- Alaska Railroad
- Anacosta Rail Holdings
- Florida East Coast Railway
- Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
- The Indiana Rail Road Company
- Iowa Interstate Railroad
- Iowa Pacific Holdings
- Manufacturers Railway Company
- Montana Rail Link
- Pan Am Railways, Inc
- Texas Mexican Railway Company
- Vermont Railway Inc
- WATCO Companies
- Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway
- Wisconson Central
The AAR includes 30 regional railroads, which are linehaul railroads with at least 350 route miles and/or revenue over $40 million; 320 local linehaul carriers which operate less than 350 route miles and earn less than $40 million; and 203 switching and terminal carriers that primarily provide switching and terminal services.
Type of Freight Carried by Class 1 Railroads for 2003 and 2013:
|Commodity Group||2003 Tons Originated|| 2003 Percent
|2005 Tons Originated|| 2005 Percent
|2013 Tons Originated|| 2013 Percent
|Chemicals & allied products||163,018||9.1||167,199||8.8||176,357||10.0|
|Misc. mixed shipments*||103,875||5.8||119,835||6.3||115,138||6.6|
|Food & kindred products||102,114||5.7||102,191||5.4||100,179||5.7|
|Metals & products||55,166||3.1||57,851||3.0||50,142||2.9|
|Stone, clay & glass products||51,046||2.8||55,231||2.9||44,788||2.5|
|Petroleum & coke||47,968||2.7||55,611||2.9||46,147||2.6|
|Lumber & wood products||47,466||2.6||47,603||2.5||26,593||1.5|
|Waste & scrap materials||41,497||2.3||47,345||2.5||40,063||2.3|
|Pulp, paper & allied products||38,543||2.1||38,242||2.0||33,034||1.9|
|Motor vehicles & equipment||34,314||1.9||35,585||1.9||20,233||1.2|
|All other commodities||23,448||1.3||21,810||1.1||27,137||1.5|
* Miscellaneous mixed shipments (STCC 46) is mostly intermodal traffic. Some intermodal traffic is also includedin commodity-specific categories. STCC 46 accounts for about two thirds of intermodal tonnage. Source: Association of Americal Railroads.
Class I Railroad Traffic:
|Carloads Originated (million)||27.90||28.87||30.09||31.14||30.00||28.37||28.83|
|Intermodal Units (million)*:|
|Tons Originated (million)||1,767||1,799||1,844||1,899||1,885||1,760||1,758|
Source: Association of Americal Railroads.
* Includes 1 regional railroad and excludes Canadian-owned Class 1 railroads.
For additional Information:
Association of American Railroads website.
Photo courtesy BNSF, text by Richard Boehle, freight and traffic information courtesy Association of American Railroads.
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