Freight Railroads Using Technology to Boost Environmental Performance

The nation’s freight railroads, already the most environmentally friendly form of ground transportation, are using innovative “green” technologies to further reduce their environmental footprint. New technologies such as hybrid-powered locomotives and on-board computers that read route terrains are helping railroads lower emissions by as much as 80 percent and reduce fuel consumption by 16 percent.

Freight railroads are four-times more fuel efficient than trucks and can move a ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel.

“That’s the equivalent of moving a ton of freight from Baltimore to Boston on just one gallon of fuel,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward Hamberger. “Since 1980, trains have reduced their fuel consumption by 45 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions by 500 million tons.”

Because railroads are the most efficient way to move freight, shifting just 10 percent of long-haul freight from truck to rail would reduce fuel consumption by more than 1 billion gallons a year. Moving freight shipments from the highway to rail also alleviates highway congestion-saving drivers countless hours in traffic and lowering both gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The major freight railroads-Norfolk Southern, BNSF, CSX and Union Pacific-are all developing new ways to become “greener.” In cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, railroads have begun to refurbish locomotives as part of a program to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and other particulates by 80 percent or more.

“The railroad industry takes its environmental impact seriously, and continuously looks for the most effective ways to ship the maximum amount of goods with as few emissions and little fuel as possible,” Hamberger said.

A freight train hauls one ton of freight an average of 436 miles on one gallon of fuel-about four times farther than a truck.