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Intermodal: Going Green.Simplified

Oct 09, 2017

If you’re looking for ways to make your company more environmentally friendly by reducing your carbon footprint then perhaps you should consider intermodal shipping methods. What makes intermodal a green choice? Let’s take a look. 

Intermodal - Green.jpgWhat’s so green about intermodal?

Here’s what makes intermodal so green: 

It decreases total fuel consumption – Rail only uses a gallon of fuel to move a ton of freight an average of 468 miles. If just 10 percent of the freight was moved by rail instead of LTL or truckload it would result in approximately 1.5 billion gallons fuel savings per year and a reduction of about 17 million tons of green house gases. These improvements would be equivalent to removing around 3.2 million cars from the highways for a year or planting 400 million trees. 

It reduces greenhouse gas emissions – Rail is four times more fuel efficient than trucks (according to an independent study for the Federal Railroad Administration). In fact, moving freight by rail instead of truck reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent! 

It’s more productive and easier on the roads -- A single freight train can replace up to 280 trucks due, in part, to the fact that containers can be double-stacked. This frees up highways for other motorists. Shifting freight from trucks to rail also reduces highway wear and tear, and the pressure to build costly new highways. It also reduces congestion on roadways that may result in unwanted idling of vehicles pouring more damaging gasses into the air.

It’s safer -- Rail is considered to be a safer way to transport hazardous materials than trucks because, according to EPA statistics, trucks have about 16 times more hazmat releases than railroads.

It’s recyclable -- Intermodal containers are even recyclable! 

How is this possible? 

Railroads use more fuel efficient locomotives than they did 20 years ago. They’ve accomplished this through technological innovations, new investments, improved operating practices, and a lot of hard work. Among many other things, railroads have:

  • Acquired thousands of new, more efficient locomotives and removed from service thousands of older, less fuel efficient locomotives.
  • Increased capacity of freight rail cars and trains -- Thanks to improved freight car design, the use of longer trains, and other factors, the amount of freight railroads carried in an average train in 2016 was 3,533 tons, up from 2,923 tons in 2000. 
  • Advanced computer software keeping rail running at optimum efficiency. This software calculates the most fuel-efficient speed for trains over a given route, determines the most efficient spacing and timing for trains on a railroad system, and monitors locomotive functions and performance for peak efficiency.
  • Idle-reduction and power distribution technologies that shut down and restart the locomotive as needed as well as utilizing distributed power to reduce the amount of horsepower needed to move trains.
  • Training of locomotive engineers to increase awareness of fuel-efficient operations.

Railroads are the most environmentally sound way to move freight over land. On average, trains are four times more fuel efficient than trucks. They also reduce highway gridlock, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Through the use of greener technologies and more efficient operating practices, our nation’s privately owned freight railroads are committed to even greater environmental excellence in the years ahead. Interested in learning more about intermodal, or want to see if it makes sense for your next shipment, contact American Group by phone at 866-553-6608 or by email at We’re a SmartWay Transport Partner equipped to guide you to the most environmentally friendly shipping solutions!


Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=''>artqu / 123RF Stock Photo</a>