Why is Rail Transportation So Cost Effective?
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Why is Rail Transportation So Cost Effective?

Trains are some of the most efficient haulers in the world.

It all comes down to a question of physics. Engines are more efficient at larger scales; in fact, the most efficient engines by fuel consumption divided by amount hauled over a distance are not trains, but ships. These ships can go into cruise control for days without having to alter their speed, and the large scale of their two-stroke diesel engines is much more efficient. Trains also use two-stroke diesel engines, but their size is obviously smaller than cargo ships. The general rule of internal combustion engines is that they haul weight less efficiently the smaller that they get.

Railroads are a competitive form of transportation, because they are reported to be nearly three times more efficient than trucks. Good management of rails could increase this figure to an even higher number. Besides this, trucks in the United States cannot exceed a weight limit of 80,000 pounds without permission from the Department of Transportation; this is because overweight trucks can tear apart roads that are not intended for this high weight. Many rail cars exceed this weight empty. Loaded, an individual rail car can weigh more than 200,000 pounds, and a decent sized train can weight more than 10,000 tons or 20 million pounds.

Besides the fact that trains do not have to interact with street traffic, the overall time to transport a large quantity of goods is always shorter by train. For this reason, trains are a highly efficient transporter of raw materials and extremely large quantities of items, as well as items that are impossible to fit on conventional roads (large generators are a common example).

The reason that trucks do have a market in the United States is because of a simple reason: mobility. Trains require a very specific infrastructure in order to service a location, and they cannot match the mobility of a truck. The market has a powerful way of taking the most efficient method available to it for a given form of transportation: cost and time.

While a truck is the best method of hauling a load of logs from a mountain where they have been harvested to a chip mill, a train is much better at hauling chips to the factory for processing. While a train is a highly effective method of hauling intermodal containers from a ship yard to a distribution center, a truck is a much better method of hauling a quantity of goods to a given store. Therefore, each form of transportation has its own profit sector.


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Comments (3)

good share informative

very interesting thank you

I love travelling by train and do it whenever I can. It is very cost effective and fun.