Freight railroads move just about everything -- from lumber to vegetables, from coal to orange juice, from grain to automobiles, from chemicals to scrap iron -- and connect businesses with each other across the country and with markets overseas. And they contribute billions of dollars to the economy through investments, wages, purchases and taxes.

America's Freight Railroads Carry

  • More than 40 percent of the nation's intercity freight;

  • 70 percent of vehicles from domestic manufacturers;

  • 64 percent of the nation's coal, which generates 36 percent of the nation's electricity; and

  • 40 percent of the nation's grain.

    ...and Move Tens of Millions of Tons Every Day

  • Class I railroad freight volume in 1998 was 1.38 trillion ton-miles. U.S. railroads hauled nearly 26 million carloads of freight in 1998, including nearly 8.8 million intermodal trailers and containers. Intermodal volume has nearly tripled since 1980.

  • Class I railroads operated 20,261 locomotives in 1998 which hauled a fleet of 1,315,667 freight cars with an aggregate capacity of 127.8 million tons -- an increase of 18 percent since 1990. It would take three million trucks to equal the capacity of the rail car fleet.

  • U.S. railroads owned and maintained more than 132,000 route miles in 1998, enough to circle the globe more than five times.

    Railroads Move Freight at a Lower Cost Than Ever Before

  • On average it costs 26 percent less to move freight by rail now than it did in 1981, and 57 percent less in inflation-adjusted dollars. These reductions have saved American consumers tens of billions of dollars.

    Railroads Directly Boost the Economy

  • U.S. freight railroads directly contribute $13 billion a year to the economy in wages and benefits to more than 200,000 employees and billions more in purchases from suppliers.

  • Almost 700,000 retired railroad workers and family members receive $8 billion in retirement benefits each year.

  • In 1998, Class I railroads paid $2.1 billion in payroll taxes, $724 million in federal income taxes (in addition to incurring $850 million in deferred income tax liability), and nearly $890 million in other taxes.

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