Describe the five modes of transportation, identifying the most significant characteristic of each.
Rail, Highway, Water, Pipeline, and Air
Rail-Railroads have handled the largest number of ton-miles in the United States to this day. A ton-mile is the standard measure of freight activity. The capability to efficiently transport large tonnage over long distances is the main and most important reason railroads continue to handle significant intercity tonnage.
Highway- Highway transportation has grown fast since the end of World War II. This growth has resulted from the ability to operate door to door. Trucks are very flexible because of the ability to operate on many different roadways. Almost one million miles of highway are available to trucks. Trucks have a small fixed investment in terminal facilities and operate on publicly financed and maintained roads.
Water- Water is the oldest mode of transportation. The main advantage of water transport is the capacity to transport extremely large shipments. Water transport ranks between rail and highway carrier in terms of fixed cost.
Pipeline- Pipelines account for nearly 70% of all crude and petroleum ton-mile movements. Natural gas is also transported using a pipeline system. Pipelines operate on a 24 hour basis and there is no empty container or vehicle that has to be returned at the end of the day. The fixed costs are high but the variable costs are the lowest out of all the modes of transportation.
Air- Air is the newest but least utilized mode of transportation. The most significant advantage of airfreight lies in the speed with which a shipment can be transported. Air shipment can be done in hours while the other modes of transportation may take days.