VOl. 24, NO. 3
Rising fuel prices force rapid evolution
in cargo transportation.
By SETH MASiA
it can move a tiny fraction of the crop. J.B. Hunt,
the nation’s largest trucking company, now operates 29 intermodal centers in 22 states to transfer
its 47,000 shipping containers.
Big retail companies like Wal-Mart haven’t
bothered to build their distribution centers along
rail lines, in part because, until recently, railroads
haven’t been much interested in carrying package freight or produce. They’ve specialized in
bulk shipments, and about 80 percent of their
revenue traffic today is coal. With rising fuel
prices, however, railroads now carry about 70
percent of all containerized intermodal cargo.
The limiting factor is choke points in the rail system. For instance, rail freight can’t pass through
Chicago without being trucked between two
intermodal points, adding two days to the trip.
Seth Masia ( email@example.com) is deputy editor
of SOLAR TODA Y.
cially and politically Feasible?” page 35).
With a Crr of about 0.01, a truck’s rubber
tire has roughly 10 times more drag than a steel
wheel. and a modern over-the-road truck cruises
at about 65 mph (105 kph). a full-size truck is
smaller than a locomotive, but the speed difference means it generates about six times as much
aerodynamic drag. The result: Today’s trucks
move freight at about 130 tmg on interstate
routes. That’s a big improvement compared to
20 years ago, when the long-haul truck fleet averaged 5 mpg and 90 tmg.
Why trains should trump trucks
More efficient trucks can help
intermodal centers speed transfer of freight from truck to train and back, usually via sealed container.