Baltimore to Boston on one gallon of diesel fuel

What’s more fuel efficient than the newest hybrid car? A freight train.

Last year, freight railroads were more fuel-efficient than ever.

In 2007, major freight railroads in the United States moved a ton of freight an average of 436 miles on each gallon of fuel. This represents a 3.1% improvement over 2006 and an astonishing 85.5% improvement since 1980.

“That’s the equivalent of moving a ton of freight all the way from Baltimore to Boston on just a single gallon of diesel fuel,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.

He noted that thanks to railroads’ fuel efficiency gains, since 1980 freight railroads have reduced fuel consumption by 48 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions by 538 million tons.

Hamberger pointed out that railroads are three or more times more fuel efficient than trucks, adding: “In fact, if just 10% of the freight currently moving by truck went instead by rail, the nation could save one billion gallons of fuel per year.”

Moving more freight by rail does more than just reduce fuel consumption and pollution, he said. It also reduces highway congestion. “A single intermodal train can take 280 trucks off the highways. And because the average size of a truck is equal to almost four automobiles, that’s the same amount of space that 1,100 automobiles would occupy.”

Railroads are taking concrete steps to further reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

“Railroads and their suppliers have developed technologies that reduce the need to idle locomotives when not operating,” said Hamberger. “They have developed new hybrid and “gen-set” locomotives that also reduce both fuel consumption and emissions in rail yards. And they are working to develop new hybrid locomotives and fuel cell locomotives that have promise to bring further improvements in both areas.”