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NS getting greener

Summer 2015

Brett Potter, a fireman-oiler at NS’ terminal in Enola, Pa., fuels the Nickel Plate heritage locomotive.

Gains in fuel efficiency

In 2010, Norfolk Southern set an ambitious five-year goal to reduce its business greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per revenue ton-mile of freight.

Through a variety of fuel- and energy-efficiency initiatives, the railroad achieved 85 percent of the goal by the end of 2014, the final year.

Over the period, NS reduced GHG emissions by a substantial 8.5 percent per revenue ton-mile. In 2014, NS trains moved 205 billion revenue ton-miles of freight, meaning that emissions avoided through the 8.5 percent reduction totaled roughly 524,800 metric tons of GHG for the year. According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calculator, that’s equivalent to taking more than 110,480 gas-burning automobiles off the highway.

Along with the emissions reduction, NS locomotives in revenue service saw fuel efficiency gains of 2.2 percent in 2014. That translates into diesel fuel savings of roughly 10.8 million gallons. On average, an NS revenue train moved a ton of freight 415 miles on a gallon of diesel, up from 406 miles in 2013.

Given that NS spent nearly $1.6 billion on diesel fuel in 2014 – the single largest expense behind employee compensation and benefits – any improvement in locomotive fuel economy is good for the company’s bottom line.

Efficiency gains are attributed in large part to LEADER train-handling technology. Around two-thirds of the company’s long-haul locomotives are equipped with the technology, and 2014 marked the first full year that data management systems were in place to run LEADER trains across the entire network.

More information about NS’ environmental performance in 2014, along with economic and social highlights, can be found in the company’s 2015 sustainability report, Connections, at