The use of railway cars is an effective method for transporting commodities. It is commonly a faster form of land transportation, compared to truck transportation. A single freight train is also capable of transporting a much greater cargo than a single truck. This gives it a significant advantage of trucking, because the larger scale results in decreased transportation costs, as there is less manpower and energy required to haul the same amount of cargo.
There are a number of different types of railcars, which are each designed for a different type of cargo. Trains can be used to either transport containers or bulk cargo.
A hopper car is a freight car that is used to transport dry bulk cargo. The most common type of commodities transported in hopper cars are grains, coal, ore, sugar, and fertilizers. Depending on the cargo a hopper car can be covered to protect the cargo against weather conditions. A hopper car is designed to be able to unload its cargo through either doors on the bottom or sides of the freight car.
A gondola is different type of railcar used to transport dry bulk cargo, mostly used in the steel industry. They are commonly used to transport high density bulk such as steel pipes, coils and plates. They are lower than hopper cars because they are not designed to unload their cargo through bottom hatches.
Boxcars are closed railcars which are used to transport commodities that need to be protected against weather conditions. They have one or multiple side doors for loading the goods. The most common type of cargo are paper and lumber, but other commodities may be transported this way. The use of boxcars is becoming less-used due to the advantages of containerized transport.
There are railcars specially designed to transport international transport containers. These containers can be easily loaded onto the railcars, for quick and safe transportation of the cargo. In some countries it is even possible to load two container atop each other on a single railcar. This makes rail transport even more effective. Due to the vertical limitations of the rail network of many areas, tunnels and overhead wiring, this is however not possible in every area.
Pricing of rail freight
An important advantage of rail transportation is the possibility to increase the freight on a single rail voyage against relative low costs. Although initial costs for rail transportation are substantial, the addition of extra railway cars to an existing rail train, bears relative low costs. Thus the carrying capacity of a freight train can easily be increased against relatively low costs.
Another cost-related advantage of rail are the low public costs. The track maintenance is being managed by railroad companies and are therefore considered private costs for these companies. As most of these costs are paid for indirectly by the passenger services on train tracks, train freighting bares only a very small amount of these costs. Whereas trucks pay fees for the use of roads, freight trains can use the tracks against relative low costs.
A rolling highway is a combination of rail freight and truck transport. This transportation method lets the trucks, loaded with freight, ride straight onto specialized wagons, which allows the trucks to drive across the entire train. Once the trucks are loaded on the train, the truck drivers can rest and the train will transport the trucks to the unloading station, where the trucks will depart the train and continue the remaining journey by road. There are a number of advantages when using this transportation method. First and foremost is the fuel cost reduction. Trains are a far more fuel efficient method of transportation compared to trucks, considering the amount of cargo a single train can transport. Consequently the use of a highway train is also less damaging for the environment. This transportation method also allows for a more continues process of transporting cargo. When the trucks are loaded on the train, the driver will be able to rest and continue his journey immediately upon departing the train. This way the cargo will be continuously on the move.