Rail Has a PR Problem
March 10, 2023
Posted by Larry B. Jordan
An Inconvenient Truth
Rail’s got a PR problem.
Rail is, without question, the most environmentally conscious mode of transportation in the world, and yet outside of high speed passenger trains, you barely hear a peep about it. We can’t talk about it, though, because of disasters like the East Palestine train derailment. We aren’t able to hold two things in our hands at once: that the fallout of that situation was bad for the environment and that despite it, rail is still the greenest way to travel and ship goods.
In every industry, capitalizing on strengths is important to actualize innovations; it’s what helps separate you from the competition and makes innovations have lasting impact. Despite the strides the trucking industry has made, rail is still, by nature, the greener option. If you’re a shipper with sustainability goals of reducing your carbon footprint by 50%, rail is your best option because it can reduce it by up to 80%.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easier to ship by rail, though. Trucking is currently easier to ship with, and that should strike us as a problem. Our industry has the advantage. We are more efficient. We’re better for the environment. It doesn’t make sense that trucking is easier to ship with. There are a few reasons for that, but only one that I want to focus on now:
- We lose standing and authority by not painting the full picture of our industry: accidents do happen, but we can’t let echo chambers and misinformation derail the entire narrative.
Reshaping the Narrative
Some say that the situation in East Palestine is one of the greatest ecological disasters in U.S. history, and it is an example of how bad rail is for the environment. Frankly, we let that narrative take greater hold than it needed to. We should be using this as a chance to acknowledge the problem, honor the investigation currently happening, respect and support cleanup efforts, and use the technology at our disposal to make railroads safer.
Bad PR doesn’t have to be the end of things. It can and should be a chance to innovate towards a better future—and to let others know that!
And in non-crisis times, the industry needs to be out there touting our innovations and strengths as an industry. America is America because of the rail industry. It allowed the country to economically prosper well before cars, trucks, and other modern transportations were even a pipedream. They have their efficiencies, sure; but the future of America is in the future of rail.