Nearly 140,000 miles of railroad tracks crisscross the United States. Beyond that lengthy network of track, the railroad is comprised of many moving parts and nuances that some shippers are only just beginning to understand. Fortunately, there are resources to help get your arms around this vast and important industry. Here are the best.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR)
What it is: Founded in 1934, AAR is the world’s leading railroad policy, research, standard setting, and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of the U.S. freight rail industry.
- Industry Data, Reports and Publications: If you want to get comprehensive insight into the operations of North America’s freight railroads, check out the AAR’s weekly, quarterly and annual statistical reports as well as their other publications.
- Railroad 101: Visit the Rail 101 section to learn about the types of railroads, what they haul, technology, suppliers, history and other railroad basics.
- Resources: The Resources page gives visitors access to fact sheets, articles, rail traffic data and more. You can also sign up for the Signal Newsletter, a bi-weekly newsletter that delivers rail news and industry happenings.
Federal Railroad Administration
What it is: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created in 1966 and is one of 10 agencies housed under the U.S. Department of Transportation. The organization’s mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods.
- Freight Rail Overview: The Freight Rail Overview provides information on how, what and where freight moves and provides a look at the future as well.
- eLibrary: The FRA eLibrary allows users to search all FRA documents and filter by date, subject or document type.
- Grants and Loans: The Grants and Loans page offers information on how entities can get funding for the expansion and upgrade of passenger and freight rail infrastructure and services, including a list of programs (like BUILD grants) and information on the application process.
U.S. Department of Transportation
What it is: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is committed to ensuring the U.S. has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system in the world.
- Blog: Connections is the DOT’s blog, featuring posts by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
- Railroads Page: The Railroads page filters to the DOT information pertaining to railroads.
- National Transportation Library: The National Transportation Library page provides access to a digital library of full-text research, reports and datasets as well as the Freight Data Dictionary.
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA)
What it is: Founded in 1913, ASLRRA represents the owners and operators of short line and regional railroads throughout North America, which are a key part of the hub-and-spoke transportation network and often provide the first-mile/last-mile connection between farmers and manufacturers and the ultimate consumer.
- Webinars: ASLRRA webinars are intended to help members stay current on industry issues and acquire new skills (registration required).
- Industry Events: To find out what’s going on in the industry, visit the Industry Events page.
- Communities: Want to talk shop with other Short Line folks? The Communities page lets you connect with others interested in a particular practice area or craft.
What it is: Started in 1972, Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks.
Railroad safety is important to everyone. With its dedication to rail safety education, Operation Lifesaver is literally on a mission to save lives: The organization’s website helps people avoid the dangers involved with crossing highway-rail grade intersections and trespassing on railroad property. The site includes safety tips for:
- And more
Surface Transportation Board
What it is: The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is an economic regulatory agency responsible for resolving railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers.
- Maps: The STB allows access to its Railroad Map Depot, which provides maps of various rail networks.
- What’s New: The What’s New section gives you the latest and greatest on the STB’s rules, regulations and decisions.
- Testimony & Speeches: If you want to know firsthand what’s being discussed, soon after important testimony is delivered, or speeches are made by Surface Transportation Board officials, the STB's Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance (OPAGAC) posts copies to the Testimony & Speeches page.
American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA)
What it is: Formed in 1997, AREMA is dedicated to the development and advancement of both technical and practical knowledge and recommended practices pertaining to the design, construction and maintenance of railway infrastructure.
- Publications: AREMA offers the sale of some important industry publications, like the “Manual for Railway Engineering,” Communications & Signals Manual,” “Bridge Inspection Handbook” and “Practical Guide to Railway Engineering” on its Publications page.
- Events Calendar: Find out what seminars, webinars and committee meetings are coming up on the Events Calendar.
- Annual Conference: The AREMA Annual Conference helps members of the railway industry increase their railroad knowledge, technical expertise, network and exchange ideas. The Conference page has all the details.
What it is: If you’ve ever wondered how the private investments by U.S. freight railroads benefit communities nationwide, GoRail has the answer. GoRail works with thousands of community leaders across the country to tell the local story of freight rail — stronger economies, more jobs and cleaner skies.
- Rail Benefits: The Rail 101 Industry Benefits page tells the story of how the industry powers the economy, environmental impacts, and safety and community planning.
- Blog: The Rail at Work blog covers the latest freight rail news in various communities.
- Impacts by State: The State by State page lets you click a state, then learn about the impact of the freight rail industry in that specific area.
Class I Railroads
What they are: Class I railroads are the largest railroads operating in North America.
Each website offers resources specific to their customers, territories and operations.
Central U.S. and Mexico
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