For hauling bulk loads, freight trains are more efficient than trucks when it comes to distance. Trains can carry extremely heavy loads across the entire country and, while slower than trucks, deliver goods less expensively than trucks can. For shipments where time doesn’t matter, trains are used frequently to carry many bulk commodities.

How Freight Trains Are Powered and Maintained

Freight trains in the United States are powered by diesel engines, with very few using electric engines. A push to build a more electrified railroad system to prevent air and noise pollution and lower emissions has been difficult. With railroads being run by private companies, they don’t have the funding necessary to switch to electric systems. The government would need to fund an initiative that large. Climate change is becoming more of an issue as the years go by so perhaps the United States will begin to see more trains powered by electric like seen in other countries. Trains are maintained in rail yards equipped with tools such as air compressor line Jacksonville FL, axles and jacks.

Types of Freight Cars and Cargo

Boxcars can carry a variety of freight and are one of the most recognizable train cars you see. They’re being replaced by intermodal cars because of the ability of intermodals to be transferred between transportation modes without unloading. Flat cars are steel frames with wood panels on top used to carry construction equipment, airplane parts, wood and other large items. Tanker cars can carry liquids, the most common being crude oil. Sometimes hazardous liquids are transported and need to be marked clearly on the outside. Hopper cars are loaded from the top and typically carry coal, iron ore, grain and wheat. Autorack cars are used to transport vehicles. A centerbeam car is used to carry lumber, drywall and other building materials.

The Regulation of Railroads

The Staggers Act allows railroads to set rates based on market conditions, but rates are overseen by the Surface Transportation Board, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation to ensure the power is not abused. The Surface Transportation Board approves any mergers between rail companies and hears cases from shippers against railroads when they are accused of abusing power.

The railroads run by large companies, such as Union Pacific and Northern Southern, are still an essential part of the freight community and fill a necessary need for long-distance hauling that trucks can’t compete with.