Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Earth Day, AAR notes rail’s increasing fuel efficiency

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The Association of American Railroads Thursday announced that the nation’s freight railroads in 2009 averaged 480 ton-miles to the gallon, up significantly from the benchmark of 426 ton-miles used by AAR, Class I railroads, and freight rail supporters throughout North America in recent month to bolster the mode’s environmental credentials.

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Ton-miles-per-gallon is the railroad measurement for fuel efficiency, like autos use miles-per-gallon. Overall, freight rail fuel efficiency is up 104% since 1980. In 2009, railroads generated 67% more ton-miles than in 1980, while using less fuel, AAR said.

“I’m pleased to report on Earth Day that the nation’s freight railroads notonly haul the goods that America depends on every day, but they do so while benefiting the environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.

While environmental benefits from moving more people and goods by rail are important advantages, fuel efficiency is where it all starts, Hamberger noted, citing the federal government’s finding that railroads are four times more fuel-efficient than trucks. “Railroads are moving more while consuming less fuel, which means we’re emitting fewer greenhouse gases and easing highway congestion.”

Railroads use sophisticated on-board monitoring systems to gather and evaluate information to provide engineers with real-time “coaching” and calculate the speed that maximizes fuel savings. Railroads also use innovative freight-carand locomotive designs that cut down fuel consumption, AAR says.

“America can save even more fuel by shipping more by train. If just 10% of the long-haul freight currently moving on our crowded highways was moved by rail, annual fuel savings would exceed 1 billion gallons,” Hamberger said.

Among other things, railroads have invested billions of dollars in thousands of new, more fuel-efficient locomotives and on overhauling older units to makethem more fuel-efficient. Research also is under way on hybrid long-haul locomotives.