How significant is the threat from autonomous trucking, platooning, or electric trucks, and will railroads’ response be up to the challenge?

20161212 Tonyhatch (Cropped)

It is serious but it’s a loooooong way out. The rails have three enduring advantages. They are labor-efficient (240-plus containers in a train versus 240 individual trucks). They are fuel-efficient: remember the oft-cited Association of American Railroads stat that rails are four times more efficient than trucks. Those are under attack by Silicon Valley, utilizing the Trojan Horse of “safety.” But the third advantage is their physical network, the only one to get a passing (B) grade in the 2017 U.S. infrastructure report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers (overall infrastructure: D+). That will keep rails in the game; how they spend and adapt to the changing technology world will determine how they perform in that game.