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Efficiency & Safety Comparison Of U.S. Railroads And Trucks

Christine O'Kelly
Aug 14, 2008
These days everyone is talking about global warming and saving the environment. One way Americans can "go green" is to invest in and utilize the nation's railroads. Railroads are far more energy-efficient then their competition. Locomotives today get 80% more mileage from a gallon of diesel fuel than in 1980. As a result, trains consume far less fuel than trucks to move the same amount of freight thereby, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

Today's railroads employ the latest technology that allows for cost efficiencies. Complex software is used to track railcar location and to determine the most efficient means to put cars together into trains thereby streamlining the system. Moreover, sophisticated electronics onboard locomotives assess topography, track curvature, train length and weight to determine the optimum speed for conserving fuel.

Are Railroads Really Safer Than Trucks?

Relatively speaking, railroads offer a safer alternative to trucks and should be used to transport dangerous materials whenever feasible. A semi truck accident involving hazardous material could prove to be an extremely dangerous situation. The transportation of raw materials by rail results in only about 14% of the fatalities and 8% of the injuries that trucks do per trillion ton-miles.

Moreover, railroads have approximately 6% of the HAZMAT incidents that trucks have for roughly the same HAZMAT ton-mileage. Semi truck accidents often occur in heavily populated areas. Finally, railroads have approximately 21% of the HAZMAT incidents that trucks have that result in fatalities or serious injuries for roughly the same HAZMAT ton-mileage.

Safety Measures In Place

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters recently announced new federal regulations requiring railroads to use the safest and most secure route for trains carrying the most toxic and dangerous hazardous materials. The railroad industry has also continued to improve on its own with many locations enjoying new rail track and equipment. Beginning June 1, 2008 these regulations will require that railroads conduct a comprehensive safety and security risk analysis of its primary routes and any practicable alternative routes over which it has authority to operate.

The safety analysis will consider a minimum of 27 risk factors such as a trip's length, the volume and type of HAZMAT being moved, existing safety measures along the route and population density. As a result, it is projected that railroads will continue to be a more efficient and safer alternative to trucks and the number of semi truck accidents involving HAZMAT will decline.
About the Author
Christine O'Kelly is an author for 18-Wheeler Accident.org , an organization of legal representatives specializing in helping clients that have been involved in a semi truck accident .
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