United States Steel Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp. and The Greenbrier Companies jointly announced a new steel gondola railcar. Using a formula for high-strength, lighter-weight steel developed by U.S. Steel, each gondola’s unloaded weight is reduced by up to 15,000 pounds. Gondola railcars transport loose bulk material such as metal scraps, coils, wood chips, steel slabs and ore. Norfolk Southern will initially acquire 800 of the Greenbrier-engineered gondolas. Features of the newly designed gondolas provide an extended lifecycle, increased sustainability and greater freight capacity.

According to the companies, the new steel is twice as strong as traditional steel used in the railcar manufacturing process, potentially extending the useful life of each gondola to 50 years. The new gondola is also more energy-efficient, both during production and in use. The steel fabrication process requires less time, leading to improved energy efficiency due to less material being used. The lower weight decreases the fuel needed by locomotives hauling the railcars, reducing energy usage and lowering emissions. In addition, the high-strength steel requires less structural reinforcement, simplifying the manufacturing process and allowing more total cargo space in each railcar.

The partnership between supplier, builder and end user is rooted in the recognition that North America's aging gondola fleet will soon require substantial replacement with a more sustainable design. Moving freight by rail is the most environmentally friendly mode of surface transport, with the average U.S. railroad moving 1 ton of freight 470 miles per gallon of fuel.