A freight train is a group of freight cars hauled by one or more locomotives on a railway, transporting cargo all or some of the way between the shipper and the intended destination as part of the logistics chain. Trains may haul bulk material, intermodal containers, general freight or specialized freight in purpose-designed cars. Rail freight practices and economics vary by country and region.
When considered in terms of ton-miles or tonne-kilometers hauled per unit of energy consumed, rail transport can be more efficient than other means of transportation. Maximum economies are typically realized with bulk commodities (e.g., coal), especially when hauled over long distances. However, shipment by rail is not as flexible as by the highway, which has resulted in much freight being hauled by truck, even over long distances.
Moving goods by rail often involves transshipment costs, particularly when the shipper or receiver lack direct rail access. These costs may exceed that of operating the train itself, a factor that practices such as containerization aim to minimize.
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