Industry Insight

The rewards of rail

February 5, 2018

Securing the best transportation options while achieving as much value and cost savings possible is no easy task for individuals responsible for managing the supply chain and transportation processes. Adding to the economic factor factors are complexities of customer expectations, order visibility, inventory management and various types of cargo shipping requirements for diverse product lines. It’s for all of those reasons that rail shipping continues to play a crucial role.

Studies show that adding rail to a company’s transportation process has significant advantages for businesses. Transporting cargo by rail can not only reduce shipping costs but also provides an environmentally sound alternative. Here are some facts that will help determine how and why rail may be right for your business:

Cost-effectiveness and efficiency

  • The Association of American Railroads reports a 99 percent improvement in freight rail fuel efficiency since 1980, and an additional 18 percent improvement since 2000.
  • Thanks to improved freight car design, the use of longer trains and other factors, the amount of freight railroads carried in an average train in 2016 was 3,533 tons, up from 2,923 tons in 2000.
  • According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, highway congestion cost Americans $160 billion in wasted time (6.9 billion hours) and wasted fuel (3.1 billion gallons) in 2014.
  • According to the Intermodal Association of North America, a typical intermodal train is equivalent to 280 truckloads, and can move one ton of freight 470 miles on a single gallon of fuel. This translates to fewer trucks on the highways, less congestion, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fewer accidents.

Environmental impact

  • Expanded use of freight rail offers a meaningful way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy with new technologies such as reduced idling, new intermodal terminals and positioning locomotives in the middle of the train.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to fuel consumption. That means moving freight by rail instead of truck lowers greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent.
  • According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, freight railroads account for just 0.6 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from all sources and just 2.3 percent of emissions from transportation-related sources.
  • According to an independent study for the Federal Railroad Administration, railroads are, on average, four times more fuel efficient than trucks.
  • If just 10 percent of the freight that moves by Class 7 or Class 8 (the largest) trucks moved by rail instead, fuel savings would be around 1.5 billion gallons per year, and annual greenhouse gas emissions would fall by approximately 17 million tons — equivalent to removing 3.2 million cars from the highways for a year or planting 400 million trees.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the external costs associated with emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide are three to five times higher for trucks than for railroads. In other words, moving freight by rail rather than by highway significantly reduces the harmful emissions that the EPA regulates.

Considering these important factors — and teaming with an experienced partner like Agforce — can help your business identify the most efficient and environmentally responsible methods for shipping your cargo.

Agforce Transport Services specializes in customized transportation solutions for our customer’s specific business needs and requirements. To learn more about how we can help simply your path to market, contact us today for a free consultation. Give us a call at 844-713-6723 or email us at 


Intermodal Factbook: An Introduction to Intermodal Freight Transportation
Intermodal Association of North America (IANA); 2017

Rail Intermodal Keeps America Moving
Association of American Railroads (AAR); April 2017

Freight Railroads Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Association of American Railroads (AAR); April 2017

Share this article