Caldwell--Farmers, truckers and air freight operations are suffering through high fuel costs. But the third pillar in the nation’s freight infrastructure, railroads are dodging losses according to the Association of American Railroads. That's because rising exports of coal and grain travel by rail to port cities, and also because more and more trucking companies are turning to rail to move their trailers cross-country.
“By using railroads, we are achieving some economy on fuel,” said Dan England, chairman of C. R. England, a family-owned company based in Salt Lake City that runs 3,600 tractor-trailers and now regularly loads 350 of the trailers on railroad flat cars to get them from, say, Chicago to Los Angeles.
Still, 70 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage moves over the highways on trucks, much of it in the diesel-powered tractor-trailers of the nation’s 350,000 independent operators, each with a fleet of up to five vehicles, one usually driven by the proprietor. Profit margins, notoriously thin in good times, are minuscule now, and each rise in fuel prices pushes more truckers into the red.