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Global Effects Of Railroads Vs. Trucks: An Environmental Challenge

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Global Engineering in an Interconnected World

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.602.1 - 8.602.10



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Paper Authors

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Dyani Saxby

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Saeed Foroudastan

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2360

Railroads Versus Trucks: Global Effects

Saeed D. Foroudastan, Ph.D., Associate Professor Saxby Dyani, Graduate Assistant

Engineering Technology and Industrial Studies Department Middle Tennessee State University


The paper “Railroads Versus Trucks: Global Effects” investigates the worldwide impact resulting from the shift of freight from railroads to trucks. Facts and statistics pertaining to fuel efficiency, emissions, traffic congestion, smog, and other environmental concerns are compared and addressed. Past and present shipping trends in developed nations are considered as well as ways developing nations can avoid making the same costly mistake of sacrificing the environment in exchange for increased production. In addition, economic factors are examined as well as causes of the shift from rail to trucks and feasible solutions. Finally, benefits and risks of shipping freight railroad versus trucks are evaluated and analyzed globally in both environmental and economical terms.


Historically, the United States has been a global leader. Many countries are striving to obtain the same technological success and industrial growth. The Industrial Revolution that took place in this country more than a century ago is currently underway in many developing countries. In striving for prosperity, however, the U.S. has made some mistakes for which it now must suffer the consequences. It has polluted the air and water in exchange for industrial growth contributing to ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, and acid rain. As a result, the U.S. is now facing a very real crisis that its leaders to no avail are frantically searching for a quick fix. One mistake the United States is suffering from now was its dramatic shift of freight transport from railroads to trucks. According to statistics dating from 2000, people in the U.S. spend approximately 43 billion dollars a year on maintaining highways. Even so it just is not enough. The amount needed to accomplish this is 53 billion dollars per year and in order to keep up with current growth trends, its taxpayers would need to spend a whopping 83 billion dollars annually. 1 That is a lot of gasoline taxes. With so much heavy traffic moving across America’s roads, it is inevitable that repair costs will continue to escalate. Anyone who drives a car knows it is a way of life to share the roads with semi-trucks. Hazardous materials and hazardous wastes shipped in these trucks add to the danger of already unsafe and overcrowded roads. One truck only gets fifty-nine miles to one gallon of fuel when shipping one ton of cargo. On the other hand, railroads get 202 miles

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Saxby, D., & Foroudastan, S. (2003, June), Global Effects Of Railroads Vs. Trucks: An Environmental Challenge Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11399

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