Railroads, the Free Enterprise Alternative

By Daniel L. Overbey | Go to book overview

8 ASPECTS OF INNOVATION

The traditional structure of the railroad industry limits and often discourages innovation. Any new idea must pass a number of hurdles prior to implementation, and many never start the course. To consider an idea, a railroad company must decide that it is technically acceptable (meets engineering standards, for example). Then the idea must meet the commercial standards and policies peculiar to that railroad company. The process must be repeated by a number of railroad companies if "the industry" is to accept the idea. Since each railroad company can serve only as far as its own tracks extend, an innovation is frequently of little value unless most railroads adopt it.

In spite of the structure, several important operational and technological innovations have appeared in recent decades. Some have been far-reaching, and others have significance only as precedents and pioneering efforts. These innovations are primarily related to rail service, though labor productivity and technological developments are also involved. Improvements in technology alone can help make railroads more efficient, but they cannot win the traffic war--at best they provide only a rear-guard holding action. In the other modes, a broad array of carrier services and prices are available. To compete effectively rail carriers must offer a similar diversity. Instead, the present railroad structure discourages diversity and promotes service at the least common denominator level.

The following examples indicate the potential for rail transportation if a wider range of services were made available. They also show the resistance to change found in the traditional railroad structure.


OPERATIONAL CHANGES

The Fireman Dispute

In 1937 the railroads and their unions signed the Diesel Agreement. Diesels were being used as yard switchers and on a few passenger trains, but

-75-

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Railroads, the Free Enterprise Alternative
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • New Titles From Quorum Books ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Figures xi
  • Tables xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • 1 - Development of The Railway 3
  • Notes 6
  • 2 - A Product of Necessity 9
  • Notes 13
  • 3 - Degrees Of Standardization 15
  • Notes 18
  • 4 - Changing Times, 4 Changing Needs 19
  • Notes 31
  • Appendix To Chapter 4 Tables 1-4 33
  • 5 - For Everyone Else: The Typical Transportation Industry Structure 41
  • Notes 53
  • 6 - Railroad Industry Structure 55
  • Notes 65
  • 7 - Aspects of Joint Use 67
  • Notes 73
  • 8 - Aspects of Innovation 75
  • Notes 87
  • 9: Economics And Structure 91
  • Appendix To Chapter 9 109
  • 10 - In Theory, in Congress 113
  • Notes 124
  • 11 - A Proposal 127
  • 12 - Roadway Companies 131
  • 13 - Carrier Companies 147
  • Notes 161
  • 14 - Terminals 163
  • 15 - Regulation 173
  • Notes 181
  • 16 - Opportunity For Innovation 183
  • Notes 192
  • Appendix To Chapter 16 Service Alternatives For Short-Haul Traffic 195
  • 17 - The Promise And The Prospects 199
  • Notes 204
  • 18 - A Logical Conclusion 207
  • Notes 210
  • Bibliography 211
  • Index 221
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