Shipping by Train: All You Need to Know

Are you curious about what products can be shipped by train? The answer is simple: almost anything! From the materials extracted from the ground to the items that make a house a home, and everything in between, it can be transported by rail. But let's take a closer look. States do not have the authority to enforce the time limits that a railway company can block a crossing, but you can report blocked crossings directly to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) by visiting their website. Intermodal transport and transshipment allow goods to move between trucks and trains and vice versa.

While class I railroads and others said that longer trains could reduce the frequency of blocked crossings, some state and local officials said that these trains can extend their duration, posing challenges for first responders who cannot cross the tracks.

What Can Be Transported by Train?

A guide to shipping freight by train includes construction materials, food, beverages, new vehicles and other products. A train can also move vehicles and even the parts they're made of (but keep in mind that freight railroads don't usually ship personal vehicles). Stakeholders said that the arrangement of train cars and locomotives, known as “train composition”, and the possibility of blocking crossings between roads and railroads are issues to consider in order to safely operate longer freight trains.

Intermodal Transport and Transshipment Two processes, intermodal shipping and transshipment, allow products to move seamlessly between trucks and trains and vice versa. Developing and implementing a strategy to share the results of FRA research and identify any potential impact of longer freight trains on road and railway junctions would allow the FRA and interested parties to better determine what measures are needed, if any, to ensure the safe operation of longer freight trains.

Safety Considerations

The GAO recommends that the FRA develop and implement a strategy to share the results of its study on longer trains and that it work with railroads to involve state and local governments to identify and reduce the impacts of longer freight trains at crossings between highways and railroads. To avoid derailment, stakeholders said it is important that longer trains are properly organized and that crews are trained to operate them.

Understanding how wood is transported by trucks and trains and comparing the two options can strengthen the supply chains of timber carriers and maximize the profitability of their participation in this enormous industry.

Heidi Longbotham
Heidi Longbotham

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