In my 40-year career, the future has never been more promising for freight rail or its customers. In times of such economic uncertainty, it should be comforting for businesses and consumers to know they can count on the rail industry to provide well-paying jobs, bolster local economies and deliver the goods that keep the country moving.
Ever-changing markets, regulatory uncertainty, tax issues and other financial challenges weigh heavily on business leaders and consumer confidence, impacting hiring and capital investment decisions by companies across many industries. While the rail industry isn’t immune from the impacts created by such issues, railroads have a proven track record of success of delivering value for customers, communities, employees and shareholders, particularly since 2008.
Freight railroads continue to hire — as many as 15,000 industrywide in 2012. These are American jobs with average wages and benefits of more than $100,000, and every freight rail job supports 4.5 additional jobs. Freight railroads historically are military-friendly in their hiring practices and were among early supporters of the Joining Forces initiative led by the White House.
The U.S. highway infrastructure continues to require maintenance and repair work at a time when federal and state funding is inadequate to meet these needs. Conversely, the freight rail industry, which is privately funded, invested a record $13 billion in 2012 on its infrastructure projects, contributing to local and regional economies by creating and sustaining jobs.
These investments also help create a competitive freight transportation advantage for American businesses to compete in the global market. In fact, U.S. freight rail rates adjusted for inflation have fallen approximately 45 percent in the past 30 years while service levels are reaching all-time highs. Combined with the trucking industry’s driver shortage, this makes freight railroads more valuable than ever to American businesses.