American history has been intertwined with the railroad, and for good reason – it represents the movement of goods, business, people, travel and commerce over great distances at a high rate of speed. When the early train was first established in the U.S., it became the primary means for long-distance travel across the early states and eventually the West. In fact, major western states like California were practically created by rail shipping as train companies bought new land and developed plots for rail transit movement.
Today, unlike other means of transport like the buggy and wagon and horse, the train hasn’t disappeared. Instead, rail shipping has continued to be the primary heavy land mover of goods, product and even people across the landlocked parts of the U.S. Further, for those businesses that want to move goods and commerce from one ocean to the other, it’s far faster and easier by rail than going all the way down to the Panama Canal and back up again. Rail shipping just makes common sense.
What is Modern Rail Shipping?
Using trains and train cargo railcars as well as tankers, rail shipping integrates with truck shipping through a system now referred to as intermodal logistics. Generally, regional shipping is handled by trucks connected to a main hub. That hub is a loading point for a train system, which then can move large amounts of combined goods across large distances at greater capacity and speed than trucking and at less cost than flying. Where previously rail cars and assignments were specific to one shipping client, today’s rail shipping combines loads and goods by manifest, and then ships large lots of product to destinations on rail.
The same works for cargo transfer points at airports. A number of international facilities also have extensive trucking as well as direct connection points to rail shipping, moving cargo off of planes and onto waiting railcars for fast movement overnight deep within the U.S.
The combination of intermodal logistics allows both trucking and rail shipping to serve companies of all sizes, as well as offer competitive pricing for shipping due to the scales of economy involved. Again, as other transport continues to evolve and change, rail shipping retains its efficiency and proves repeatedly why it remains the logistics method of choice. And it’s not limited to the U.S., countries like China continue to depend on rail extensively.
The Benefits are More Than Deadlines
Rail shipping provides huge advantages that not only affect business directly, they also help communities at large as well. The benefits of rail shipping include:
- Greater security of product shipped – Unlike trucks which are exposed at truckstops, intersections, city urban areas and on the road, rail shipping is isolated and secured from departure to destination. Goods arrive intact and with extremely low issues of tampering.
- Cost and economy – For ongoing large shipping, rail shipping repeatedly proves to be the better expense, which matters for companies with thin profit margins.
- Environmental impact is less – Unlike trucking and flight, which produce emissions from every vehicle on every road and highway, rail shipping combines a large amount of cargo material behind one single train engine. The pollution is far less, and combustion for distance traveled is far more efficient.
Don’t Expect Trains to Disappear in Logistics
Given the repeat advantages of rail shipping, there’s a very good chance that it will continue to be used in the next 50 years, regardless of what other transport technology may be invented. The evolution may very well be in the train engines themselves, producing more powerful and less-polluting haulers. However, the network grid that created America and continues to serve it every day will likely stay in place. It works too darn well to replace.