Association of American Railroad (AAR) President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger told the House Transportation railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials subcommittee that the country’s freight railroads are making record private investments in the America’s nationwide network, and plan to spend $24.5 billion in 2013. Hamberger said today’s private freight rail investments are paving the way for moving more people and goods by rail as America’s economy continues to grow. “We invest in our infrastructure so that taxpayers don’t have to,” said Hamberger. “And we are investing billions in safety technology, new intermodal terminals, and new equipment so that we can continue to meet the demands of the changing marketplace.” In recent years, despite the recession, America’s freight railroads have been reinvesting more than ever before back into the U.S. rail network. The $24.5 billion the industry expects to invest in 2013 surpasses the record $23 billion
Hamberger noted that railroads are capital intensive and must constantly maintain, upgrade and improve their networks to ensure they can serve American businesses and consumers. While the average U.S. manufacturer spends about 3 percent of its revenue on capital expenditures, U.S. freight railroads spend around 17 percent. The freight rail industry is unique among American freight transportation because the network is primarily privately funded and does not rely on taxpayer dollars. In addition to their physical infrastructure networks, railroads are investing in their employees too. More than 175,000 freight railroad employees are among America’s most highly compensated workers, Hamberger said. In 2011, the average freight railroad employee earned wages of $74,900 and benefits of $34,000, for total average compensation of $108,900. “Nothing is more important to railroads than safety, and America’s railroads are safer today than ever before,” said Hamberger.
Overall, 2012 set a new record for railroad safety, breaking the previous record set in 2011, which in turn broke the record set the previous year. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data, from 1980 to 2012 the U.S. train accident rate fell 80 percent and the U.S. rail employee injury rate fell 85 percent. Since 2000, the declines have been 45 percent and 52 percent, respectively. “We don’t rest on our laurels, but constantly look to improve upon our safety practices and processes,” Hamberger said. “We are constantly looking to implement the latest safety enhancing technologies and find new ways to advance rail safety.”