Transportation has a serious impact on the environment. Transportation is responsible for 33% of the CO₂ emission in the US and 22% in the European Union. Trucks are said to have a pollution 100 times more important than ship or train, they damage the roads six times faster than cars, are the cause of 2 or 3 more times mortal accidents and it also causes traffic congestion…
An idea already applicated in some European countries like Switzerland or Austria is to put the trucks on the rails and then continue with the truck when there is no more rails or to transport just the containers. In that case, a truck would have to be present at the arrival point. In Switzerland, they decided to put a tax on the trucks by km. It freed up the highways and hence had a positive impact not only for the environment but also for the economy.
We can make a calculation about the difference between transport by train and truck using emission coefficients given by ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) imaging 10,000 tonnes transported: truck (79 gCO2/t.km) and train (6.1 g CO2/t.km). To be more plausible, we have to assume that the truck will still be used in combination with the railroad.
A quick calculation would give the following result: 395 tonnes of CO₂ for the transport by truck against 88 tonnes of CO₂ for the combinated truck-railroad. Consequently the reduction of CO₂ emission would be around 78%. When looking for figures for CO₂ emission according to the different kind of transport, I found different numbers, sometimes 174 g CO₂/t.km for trucks and 21 g CO₂/t.km… Even though the numbers arent accurate, the CO₂ emission for trucks is always much more bigger than the one for railroad. The reduce in CO₂ emission using a combination of truck-railroad is said to go from 50% to 80% and also has many other effects as reducing noise, avoiding mortal accidents, less damage of the road which means less money to spend on the road, less money spent on the oil…
Why isn’t there more transport of trucks by train? In Europe, the network of railroads and truck transportation by train is rather well developped in Eastern Europe, it is less in western Europe and in the US. Can we use the existing railroad for the truck transportation? In Europe, as the price of gas is much more expensive that in the US, the transport by railroad is competitive and even said to be less expensive which might not be as true in the US. Explanations why train is not commonly used could be:
- Increase of costs
- Restriction of time
- Damage of freight
- Beginning investment
- Little interest in the project
However, if there is really a willing to diminish CO2 emission, combined transportation of truck and train, and also of ship and truck should be considered and must be encouraged by the government…