In an effort to consolidate multiple rail shipper groups, the organization was originally established in 1929 by the American Association of Railroads (AAR) as the National Railway Advisory Board. The group’s name was later changed to the National Association of Rail Shippers. In 2001, the name of the organization was formally changed to North American Rail Shippers Association (NARS).
From 1929 until 1993, NARS was staffed and fully supported by AAR. But in 1994, NARS separated from the AAR and has been self-managed since that time.
NARS is the umbrella organization that links five regional associations of rail owners, vendors and users in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
- The primary objectives of NARS remain: To provide a common meeting ground between railroads, vendors and users to establish transportation requirements and chart a future for the rail industry
- To promote operating efficiencies in the handling of rail equipment
- To give the shipping public a direct voice in the activities of the railroads in matters of mutual concern
- To provide educational forums where mutual understanding can be established around shipper and receiver requirements as well as carrier innovations
- To offer continuing education programs designed to improve individual business and professional skills
NARS does not collect member fees and members of the regional associations are members of NARS. Individuals can be members of multiple regional associations and attend any of the meetings hosted by the regional associations. NARS is comprised of the officers of each regional association plus six elected officers and a Board of Directors.