Companies in this industry transport freight and passengers by rail. Major companies include Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific (all based in the US), along with Deutsche Bahn (Germany), East Japan Railway (Japan), RZD (Russia), and SNCF (France).
Demand is driven by sales of bulk commodities and other items best transported by rail. The profitability of individual companies depends on operating efficiently and controlling maintenance expenses. Large companies have advantages in owning systems that connect numerous markets and enable them to serve national customers. Small companies can compete effectively by serving local markets. The US industry is highly concentrated: the top seven companies account for the majority of industry revenue.
Products, Operations & Technology
Major services are the transport of commodities, including coal, grain, crushed rock, and chemicals; containers of consumer goods; automobiles; and passengers. The overwhelming majority of railroad revenue comes from transporting commodities. Coal accounts for about 40% of commodity traffic by tons originated. Container transport, also known as intermodal rail traffic, moves consumer goods to ships and trucks without unloading the freight from containers between modes of travel. Intermodal rail traffic accounts for more than 20% of rail transportation revenue, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).