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Rail carries bulk goods, perishables, and time-sensitive goods such as machinery, automobiles, and parts and over long distances.
Rail's share of all commercial freight activity in the United States for 2002:
Rail's relatively low shares of shipment value and weight compared to other transportation modes reflects the large quantities of low value-per-ton goods like coal, ores, and grains shipped by rail. Its relatively high share of ton-miles, second only to trucking, reflects the heavy weight and the longer length of haul of most products moved by rail (e.g., cereal grains and coal traveled an average of 450 miles per ton). The average value per ton of single-mode rail shipments increased from $176 in 1993 to $205 in 2002. This increase is partially due to business' growing use of rail to move time-sensitive goods, such as vehicle parts and automobiles.