Train yard with trains, rail tracks, and background buildings.
Freight Rail Services
Sectoral analysis of U.S. trade and competitiveness in freight rail services. 

Freight Rail Services

Freight Rail Services


Our American freight rail industry plays a vital role in our nation’s economy by transporting a wide array of goods and products throughout our borders, including to our ports, which ensures that U.S. goods are traded competitively in the global trading marketplace. In fact, railroads account for about a third of U.S. exports by volume. U.S. industry relies on railroads to transport essential goods such as coal, cars, agricultural and food products, chemicals, and construction products, to name a few, which keep the economy running efficiently. The U.S. freight rail system is envied by countries all over the world. 

Covid-19 Impact on Freight Rail Industry

Chart of Cumulative Volume of Rail Traffic over First 30 Weeks of the Calendar Year

The freight rail industry has experienced an economic contraction in 2020. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen in the significant drop of freight rail activity comparing the first 30 weeks of 2019 with the same period in 2020.

Chart of Weekly Volume of Rail Traffic, for July 2019 and July 2020

Similarly, there was a significant drop of freight rail activity between July 2019 and July 2020.

According to the Association of American Railroads, at least 42% of the carloads and intermodal units that railroads transport, and more than 35% of rail revenue, are directly associated with international trade. Trade agreements, such as the recently implemented U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), strengthen ties between trading partners and will help aid economic recovery. 

To access the data for both of these charts, please click here.

ITA Resources

Richard Boll
Freight Rail and Trucking; Franchising, Direct Selling; DFO for the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC)