Putting Pedal to the Metal: Your Car’s Trip on a Train

When that Railroad crossing gate goes down before you, do you ever wonder what all of those containers in the train are carrying?

Would you be surprised to know that cars are only a small percentage of rail-cargo transport in America? In 2014, trains only shipped 1.2% of cars according to reports from the Association of American Railroads.  In case you are curious, food shipments by train are less than 6%.  So what is the biggest item that trains carry?  Well, the answer is coal, coming close to 40% and most recently oil.  Motor vehicles are at the bottom of the list of items that get to travel by train.

So how do cars get transported across the United States beside train? Other forms of transport include car hauling trucks and car-carrying ships. For long shipping routes, trains are an effective form of transportation for vehicles. Loading cars by train is a special process that requires special equipment and special decks in the rail cars to hold multiple cars. Because of this process hauling by train has been limited to large OEMs like Honda, Nissan & Toyota – they have the scale and the capacity to take advantage of rail to get reduced rates.

Since railroads are limited to destination locations, shipping cars by train is not always the way to go. Car giant Honda transports most of its cars by train, but was unhappy about the number of vehicles they were able to fit onto the train cars. So, in 2008, Honda made news by developing the Auto-Max, a special rail car to meet its own needs.  The Auto-Max could hold an amazing 22 vehicles and became a more efficient and innovative way for transporting the company’s cars.

To see behind the scenes at loading autos into a train, view Honda’s video here:

Source: https://www.aar.org/StatisticsAndPublications/Documents/AAR-Stats.pdf

Photos of Auto-Max: http://www.autoblog.com/photos/honda-auto-max-rail-car/#photo-395424

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