The U.S. freight system is the envy of the world, and the nation’s 600 short line railroads play a critical part operating 47,500 route miles, or 29% of the total. The short line railroad industry touches one in five cars moving annually at origin or destination, providing first and last mile service to over 10,000 customers – particularly in rural America.
Short lines are small, entrepreneurial businesses, employing fewer than 30 people, running an average of 79 total route miles, and averaging $7.7 million or less in revenue per year.
Without short lines, many small communities would be cut off from the efficient movement of finished goods, raw materials, and commercial farming products to markets domestically and abroad. Short lines transport every category of commodity, and many shipping locations are fully dependent upon short line railroads.
Industries reliant upon short line transportation services provide 478,820 jobs, $26.1 billion in labor income and $56.2 billion in value to the US Economy. Three industries are particularly reliant on short lines – energy, agriculture and manufacturing.
Short lines are concerned about access to capital – particularly for track maintenance and improvements; transportation policy that threatens access to rail; and balanced regulatory policy.