Companies use trains to transport goods for sale in many different situations; compared to many other types of transports, trains are often safer, faster, more energy efficient, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than other types of freight transport. However, train shipping is difficult or impossible in many cases, particularly for short trips or in areas where trains are prohibited.
Some of the most common items shipped by rail are raw materials. These items include things such as coal, stone and ores of iron and other metals. Tractor-trailers lack the power to transport such heavy loads and, additionally, many processing facilities for these materials are built around railroad tracks.
While train wrecks are often heavily publicised events that cause millions of dollars in property damage, the actual occurrences are quite rare, especially compared to collisions between freight trucks and other automobiles on highways. Railway cars also have harsher safety standards in place for cars carrying hazardous materials that are intended to prevent leaks during accidents.
One of the main attractors of using rail to ship items for sale is its incredible economic advantage compared to virtually all other types of freight shipping. Modern locomotives use a hybrid diesel-electric drive system that is much more efficient than the traditional piston-driven internal combustion engine. Leading rail shipper CSX even claims its locomotives can move 1 ton of freight 480 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. To contrast, a loaded 80,000 pound semi truck averages only 7 miles per gallon.