AAR Survey: Freight Rail “Critically Important”

Written by Andrew Corselli
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A majority of U.S. adults believe that the freight rail industry is critically important to the U.S. economy, according to a newly released poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Association of American Railroads (AAR). In addition, more than 75% percent of respondents view the industry as safe, “validating years of private investment that have corresponded with dramatic safety gains.”

In light of ongoing discussions about the road to economic recovery and the debate on Capitol Hill surrounding the surface transportation reauthorization package, these findings “demonstrate broad bipartisan support for the private freight rail industry and its role in safely and sustainably powering American commerce.”

Among other findings, the poll shows that:

  • 85% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats—or 8 in 10 American adults overall—agree the private freight rail industry is important to the economy.
  • 76% of adults say it is safe to move goods by freight trains.
  • 70% of American adults hold favorable opinions of freight railroads.

In relation to the U.S.’s long-term transportation needs, the poll shows that:

  • 78% agree that freight railroads play an important role in reducing the U.S. transportation sector’s impact on climate change after learning moving freight by rail instead of by truck lowers greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75%—with 61% of Democrats stating the industry was very important to helping lower transportation-related greenhouse gases.
  • The majority of adults—58%—favor moving freight over land by rail as opposed to truck to meet projected growth in freight shipments over the next 20 years.

The poll was conducted between June 23-26, 2020 among a national sample of 2,200 adults. Interviews were conducted online and the data was weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, gender, educational attainment, race and region. Results from the survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

“While freight railroads have worked quietly behind the scenes during the pandemic, the American people have clearly recognized that the hard work and dedication of railroaders has and will continue to help power our economy,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “As Congress proceeds with surface transportation legislation, it should recognize that the freight rail industry has been delivering through these challenging times and abandon any efforts that would weaken the industry’s ability to serve their customers and the nation. Americans don’t see partisanship when they see a railroad; they see a critical, safe transportation mode helping us all move forward.”

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