Railroads make it possible to move 61 tons of goods for every American each year. They deliver these products and services to businesses that manufacture, ship and retail them across the nation, ensuring that the most diverse selection of goods is available for consumers to purchase. Today, balanced economic regulations allow railroads to privately invest about $780 billion since 1980 into their networks to keep pace with a growing marketplace and customer needs.
The Bessemer process made steel available at a lower cost than iron and railroads switched to using it to build their networks. This allowed trains to be much longer, and increased productivity. The system also required a huge capital outlay and limited door to door service, but it lowered transportation costs for long distances, which helped to fuel America’s industrial revolution.
One of the biggest negative impacts was the exploitation of workers. Building and maintaining the railroads was hard, dangerous work and many employees were killed or injured. In addition, railroads often had a monopoly over certain lines and used their power to charge inflated prices. This led to price gouging for farmers.
Safety technology like Positive Train Control (PTC), advanced inspection techniques and maintenance procedures have dramatically decreased two of the leading causes of accidents: track problems and equipment failures. PTC tracks a variety of inputs including speed, track signals and locomotives to prevent head-on and same direction train collisions as well as derailments. Today, the rail industry continues to invest in safety technology, making recent years among the safest on record.