^SmartWay
     Transport Partnership
     U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
                               A Glance at
           Clean Freight Strategies
         Intermodal Shipping
   Intermodal freight transport combines the best attributes of both truck and rail shipping, and for long
   distances, can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 65%, compared to truck-only moves.
  What is the  challenge?
  A single locomotive pulling 20 or more freight cars
  can haul more freight than a truck hauling one to
  three trailers. This makes trains more efficient than
  trucks on a ton-mile basis.  It also means using
  freight trains to haul cargo has the potential to
  provide significant  greenhouse  gas  reductions.
  However, trains generally have fewer capabilities to
  bring freight "door-to-door" and have  more limited
  scheduling flexibility than trucks. The characteristic
  swaying  motion  of train cars  may harm  certain
  damage-sensitive   freight.  Because  of  these
  distinctions,  trucks move more than four times as
  much freight as rail.


  What is the  solution?
  Intermodal ground freight  transport combines the
  best of truck and  rail modes. Freight trains carry
  cargo over long distance, high volume rail corridors,
  and trucks move the loads between the rail terminals
  and the cargo's ultimate origin or destination.

  Different intermodal  options are available to fit a
  variety of freight needs.  Freight can be shipped via
  "trailer on  flat  car," commonly called  TOFC,  or
  "piggyback."  In a TOFC  move, reinforced truck
  trailers mount on  railroad  flat cars or spine cars
  (frame-like cars with a middle bar or spine) for the rail
  leg of the trip, and hook to combination trucks for the
  rest of the trip.

  Oceangoing freight is commonly shipped in 40 foot
  metal shipping containers.  For the inland portion of
  the trip, this freight can be shipped "container on flat
  car" or COFC. The container is loaded on a railroad
  flat or spine car for the rail leg of the trip,  and onto a
  container chassis (a frame-like truck trailer) for the
  truck portion  of the trip.  The most efficient way to
  move  containers  long distances over  land is to
  "double stack" them one on top of  another onto a
  railroad well car (rail cars with a "well" for the bottom
  container.) Multiple double stack railroad well cars
  may be permanently coupled together to decrease
  stress and cargo  damage during train braking and
  acceleration.  A universal railroad well  car can also
  handle unstacked trailers.
     Technological advances in freight  rail cars have
     expanded the opportunities intermodal freight moves.
     One technology allows a truck trailer to  travel on
     railroad tracks. The trailer is backed  onto the end of
     a railroad track, positioned  over two  sets of railroad
     axles and wheels (called bogeys), then lowered and
     attached, so it functions as a railroad car. A second
     innovation  makes it  possible to rail  virtually any
     standard truck trailer. In this option, trucks drive onto
     a rail "car" that consists of 21 rigidly attached rail car
     platforms,  and  unload trailers  onto this  platform.
     Because the long, articulated platform  has no slack
     action, it can handle standard trailers, unlike TOFC,
     which requires reinforced trailers.

     Intermodal transport may  not  be suitable for all
     goods. Time-sensitive products may require faster or
     more flexible delivery than some  railroads offer.
     Damage-sensitive  commodities  may  call for a
     smoother  ride  than  freight trains  can   provide.
     However, rail car manufacturers are introducing
     advanced suspension systems and car designs that
     better stabilize,  cushion and protect railed  cargo.


     The results are in  ...
     Intermodal is an attractive option for shipments over
     500 miles. The economic and environmental benefits
     of intermodal ground freight service are maximized
     over long hauls, where thefuel and cost savings from
     the rail part of the trip are high enough to recoup the
     extra fuel  and  handling  costs to  transport and
     transfer trailers and  containers between trains and
     trucks.  For  shipments  over  1000 miles,  using
     intermodal transport cuts fuel use and greenhouse
     gas emissions  by  65  percent,  relative  to truck
     transport, alone.


     Next  steps
     Shippers, logistics providers, and trucking companies
     should consider specifying intermodal transport when
     arranging long  distance freight shipments.  Many
     states have information about  intermodal facilities
     within  their state transportation systems.  State
     department of transportation contact information can
     be found at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/webstate.htm.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  Office of Transportatli
February 2004. EPA420-F-03-026.  For more Information,, visit: www.epa.gov/smartway

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