In fact, one gallon of fuel can carry one ton of freight about 423 miles, according to industry experts. Put more concisely, one train can do the work of 500 trucks without placing a heavy strain on the nation’s sagging infrastructure.
These noteworthy accomplishments can be traced to a massive deregulation effort in 1980. The Staggers Railroad Act of 1980 rescued American railroads. Prior to the reform, burdensome regulation made it impossible for the railroad industry to reinvest in new track and equipment. When those regulations were lifted, railroad service thrived as an industry. And, railroad companies invested in fuel efficient systems that helped ease highway congestion and reduced air pollution.
The Department of Transportation estimates that the reform resulted in a 50% reduction in railroad costs and prices. It also allowed the industry to better compete with the dominant trucking industry — providing freight customers a sound market alternative.
In its analysis of the reform, the Cato Institute found that the railroad industry was able to withstand the recession in the 1980s, earn record profits, and cut costs.
Moreover, a joint report by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institute reported another important fact. Railroad customers reaped the benefits of deregulation. “Surprisingly, deregulation has also turned out to be a great boon for shippers as railroad carriers have passed on some of their cost savings to them in lower rates and significantly improved service times and reliability,” their report found.
Reduced regulation worked for the railroad industry. And, that industry has provided the nation a cost effective and energy efficient mode of moving goods at a critical time.
Congress should not be so hasty to reverse a good decision made by its predecessors at a time when cruel oil costs and availability of oil consume the national consciousness. In 1980, government chose deregulation and reaped the benefits. Today, less regulation still is a good idea.