THE CHANGING MARKET FOR RAIL FREIGHT TRANSPORT

This paper examines the changing markets that characterize the American economy and their effects on rail freight transport. As an economy matures, the volume of freight normally fails to grow in proportion to the rate of economic growth. The geographic distribution of economic activity also changes over time, partially in response to the changing composition of economic activity and partially in response to the changing character of the transport system. To compound the problems of the established modes, the emergence of new modes of freight transport and of transport alternative circumscribes the freight markets in which the older modes enjoy cost and service advantages. This paper discusses two categories of freight traffic: bulk commodities and manufactures. Competition for bulk commodity traffic is principally among railroads, water carriers, and pipelines, although the relatively high-cost truck mode has made inroads into this traffic in certain cases. Manufactures typically move in packages or discrete units; shipments tend to be of lower volume than bulk-commodity flows, smaller, and less regular. The number of segments of the freight market in which the railroads hold a commanding economic advantage has diminished during the postwar period. The newer modes-the truck, the pipeline, the airplane-have been developed to satisfy specialized transport needs, traffic that the railroads served only so long as these other modes were nonexistent. The evolution of transport technology has in fact paralleled the evolution of freight demands. Trucking particular is consistent with almost all important changes in the freight market described. The final discussion in this paper looks to the futures of the railroad and trucking industries and outlines a number of opportunities to be gained by changes in policy and practice.

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: References; Tables;
  • Pagination: pp 1-12
  • Monograph Title: INTERCITY FREIGHT MOVEMENT BY RAIL AND HIGHWAY
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00081633
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 0309023556
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Mar 6 1975 12:00AM