Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rails--Fuel Efficient Way to Move Freight

We first got involved with rail in 1999 when we helped to build the Effingham Rail Road (EFRR) with a great partner, Charlie Barenfanger. At the time we were ridiculed for building such a short railroad, less than 2 miles in length, and the only new railroad built in IL in the entire 20th Century. But we persevered, believing that we could develop a niche with a higher level of service. And, we’ve used the EFRR as a key factor in helping to bring in new industry to Effingham.

One of the major attributes of rail is the relatively low amount of fuel that it takes to move a ton of freight. I’ve always thought that this one factor would become more important, especially in a high fuel environment like today. And, we’ve seen potential clients come “out of the woodwork” as the price of diesel has continued to climb.

One of the rail companies has boasted that they can move a ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of diesel. It sounded WAY too high to me, so I decided to check it out. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) actually keeps track of data like that! In 2007, the seven class one railroads (all of the big ones) used 4.1 billion gallons of fuel to move 1,770 billion ton-miles of freight, which works out to 435.9 ton-miles per gallon. That is over 100 times more per gallon than a truck!

My guess is that we’ll see a lot more freight moving by rail in the future.

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