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Greenbrier Outlines Railcar Design Improvements


Railcar manufacturer and lessor Greenbrier (NYSE: GBX) is seeking to develop railcars that are lighter and hold more volume but are also shorter, according to a report citing the company's sustainability initiatives.

In its "Building for Tomorrow" report that was released on August 20, GBX said it has been enhancing its railcar design in order to achieve certain goals. One goal was to reduce the tare weight, which is the weight of an empty vehicle or container. Reducing the tare weight lowers fuel consumption and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also enabling customers to increase the payload of their shipments and reduce the overall number of shipments needed.

Another goal was to minimize railcar length without reducing the volume of the car, which would enable more railcars to be included on a single train and ultimately enable operational efficiency improvements.

"We have not only been successful in shortening railcars without decreasing volume, but we have actually increased the volume of many of our railcars in this process," GBX said.

A third goal has been to implement articulation, which results in reducing the weight of one railcar because it shares axles with another railcar, according to the company.

"By reducing the space between railcars through the sharing of axles, more railcars can be included in trains, allowing for greater efficiency through a larger volume of transported products," GBX said. "In particular, when intermodal railcars are articulated there is significantly less slack throughout the train, which makes accelerating and braking more fuel-efficient and safer overall."

The report also mentions how the company tries to help the industry remain market-competitive against trucks. Greenbrier said it has become involved in the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), a nonprofit that advocates on highway safety and transportation policies. GBX said it worked with peers to lobby Congress to reject a pilot project that would permit 91,000-pound trucks on federal highways in 10 states. 

Greenbrier said it expects the parcel industry to mount another effort to obtain approval for twin 33-foot trailers sometime this year, and it anticipates the pilot project involving 91,000-pound trucks to resurface. The company said it would continue to lobby Congress on these issues. 

"We continue to engage with policymakers to oppose bigger trucks and to promote enhancements in sustainability and safety for our industry," GBX said.

Greenbrier argues that rail transportation is more fuel-efficient than truck, with one ton of cargo travelling 477 miles on a single gallon of fuel in contrast to trucks, which would travel only 145 miles per gallon with that same ton of cargo. Freight railroads also reduce traffic congestion and help decrease GHG emissions coming from freight transportation because railroads enable fewer trucks to be on the road, the company said.

The report also outlines safety initiatives, recent efforts to improve tank car design and human resources measures to enable a fairer and more equitable working environment.Greenbrier employees over 17,000 people worldwide, with offices in the U.S. and Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Brazil. The company recently acquired American Railcar Industries to bolster its maintenance and repair capabilities.

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