New DOT Fuel Efficiency Study Cites Double-Stack Rail Benefits

In a newly released report, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) finds that double stack freight rail transportation is up to five times more efficient than motor carrier transportation. The FRA’s “Comparative Evaluation of Rail and Truck Fuel Efficiency on Competitive Corridors” underscores the advantages of projects such as the National Gateway.

The National Gateway is a public-private partnership seeking to create a state-of-the-art, double-stack cleared rail corridor between East Coast sea ports and Midwest distribution centers.

According to the FRA report, double-stack trains tend to be more fuel efficient than other types of trains. The study also cites increased efficiency, technology improvements and improved railcar designs (Federal Railroad Administration, 2009).

By converting over 14 billion highway miles to double-stacked rail cars, the National Gateway will enable shippers to better utilize the improved fuel efficiency and environmental benefits of rail transportation, reducing fuel consumption by nearly 2 billion gallons and CO2 emissions by almost 20 million tons.

The National Gateway will invest over $840 million in infrastructure projects which will support the increased use of freight rail, the most environmentally friendly way to move goods on land. Already, trains can move a ton of freight more than 436 miles on a single gallon of fuel, making rail transportation three times more fuel-efficient than alternatives.

The new FRA study shows a double stack rail-to-truck Fuel Efficiency Ratio range of 2.7 to 5.5, significantly higher than a 1991 study showing a range of 2.5 to 3.4. The results are based on data from eleven different origination-destination pairs, and also show that longer hauls generally provide greater fuel savings on double stack freight rail.

To date, the National Gateway has received $393 million in funding commitments from freight transportation company CSX Corporation and its affiliates and over $150 million in commitments from participating state governments (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina). Partner states are ultimately expected to fund $191 million, with an additional $258 million requested from the federal government. In addition to governors and other state and local officials across six states, more than three dozen members of Congress, three port authorities, and a large number of global shippers, ocean carriers, business organizations and environmental groups have pledged their support for the National Gateway.

To learn more about the National Gateway, visit

Download the new FRA report at

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.