CSX and sustainable transportation go hand in hand, but that’s not something everyone realizes.

Railroad travel has declined in the U.S. since the proliferation of automobiles in the middle part of the last century. Moving goods by freight train also declined in favor of interstate trucking. But now rail freight is on the comeback trail, in part because it is greener, more sustainable transportation. And one of the companies leading that comeback is CSX.

CSX is the third-largest railroad in the U.S, according to Bloomberg News. Rail freight travel is considered the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to ship cargo overland. For every ton-mile, a typical truck emits three times more nitrogen oxide and other harmful chemicals than a train, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

CSX promotes sustainable transportation by focusing on four main areas. It trains its employees to work greener. It develops technology that reduces the time its locomotives are idling, and boosts fuel efficiency by investing in new equipment. It has enhanced its locomotive fleet by adding multiple-diesel units. And it’s committed to maximizing system operations by employing new technology such as GPS.

Employee training

A key initiative at CSX is to teach train operators how to drive the locomotives in a more sustainable way. Employees use locomotive simulators to improve their performance and increase awareness of fuel efficient train handling.

CSX uses a mechanism that is similar to the “black box” found on airplanes. The Event Recorder Automated Download (ERAD) records train operations and provides engineers feedback on how to improve fuel efficiency and reduce idling.

With the help of the ERAD, CSX saved more than 19 million gallons of fuel between 2005 and 2009. That reduced the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by 200,000 tons.

Locomotive Idling Reduction Technology

CSX is committed to reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions that result from train idling. To that end, the company has invested in two different types of equipment. One piece, the Auxiliary Power Unit, provides additional power to a locomotive so it can shut down the larger diesel engine. The second piece of equipment, the Automated Engine Start Stop, automatically shuts down the locomotive when not in use, and then automatically restarts it when needed.

Locomotive fleet enhancements

During the last three years, CSX has added about 20 multi-engine locomotives to its fleet. The trains have multiple diesel engines that activate automatically one at a time, as needed. The new units are 25 percent more fuel-efficient than the older switching locomotives that they replace.

The use of new technology

CSX has turned to real-time energy-management technology that uses global positioning, train information and track grade and curvature data to determine the most fuel-efficient settings for the throttle. The company is also exploring ways to lubricate rails to prevent wheel friction and increase fuel efficiency.

Other approaches to sustainable transportation

Outside of the four main focus areas, CSX is using other tools to promote sustainable transportation.

For example, the company has developed an online Carbon Calculator. It measures how much carbon dioxide emissions customers could eliminate for specific shipments if they sent the goods by rail versus other transportation options.

You can find CSX’s Carbon Calculator in the customer tools section of the company website.

CSX’s approach to sustainable transportation includes taking environmental crimes seriously. The company developed an Environmental Crimes Unit to investigate dumping and other crimes committed on CSX property. The company has investigated 300 incidents and 14 arrests have been made. Those 14 arrests have all led to convictions.

Perhaps the ultimate bid for sustainable transportation has been the company’s participation in an $842 million public-private infrastructure program called the National Gateway. The initiative aims to create an efficient, sustainable transportation link between the Midwest and ports in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The initiative will include repairing and replacing declining infrastructure. And as part of the project, CSX will work with trucking companies to reduce the number of miles trucks travel by more than 14.3 billion. The project will include increasing freight capacity and reducing transit times.

For more information on CSX and sustainable transportation, visit the environmental leadership section of the company's website.