Rail Freight Fuel Efficiency Has Doubled Since 1980
On Earth Day (April 22, 2010) the Association of American Railroads announced that "the nation’s freight railroads in 2009 averaged 480 ton-miles to the gallon when moving a ton of freight. 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 percent since 1980 (see chart above). In 2009, railroads generated 67 percent more ton-miles than in 1980, while using 18 percent less fuel.
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-car and locomotive designs that cut down fuel consumption, helping make rail four times more fuel efficient than trucks."
MP: This is just one of many efficiency gains over time that have contributed to making 2009 the "Most Energy-Efficent Economy in U.S. History," see this recent CD post showing that the U.S. economy used less total energy in 2009 than in 1997. The significant improvements in rail fuel efficiency over time also illustrates that many of the gains in energy efficiency over time are market-driven to achieve cost savings, and not always as a result of government mandates and environmental regulations.