A number of months ago, I wrote a blog post that analyzed the fuel efficiency claims of CSX, which was expressed in ton-miles per gallon. While doing some other efficiency work, I stumbled upon a web site that nicely summarized the efficiencies of a number of transportation modes. Here is a table that summarizes that data by transportation mode.
|Transportation Mode||Ton-Miles per Gallon of fuel|
|Semi-Trailer Trucks (half loaded)||90.5|
|Semi-Trailer Trucks (fully loaded)||186.6|
|Grain Trains (Iowa to West Coast)||437.0|
|Grain Trains (Iowa to New Orleans)||640.1|
|Barge (Iowa to New Orleans and return with 35% load)||544.5|
|Barge (Upper Mississippi Southbound)||953.0|
|Barge (Upper Mississippi Northbound with 37% load)||243.0|
|Small Ocean-Going Ship (>30K tons Deadweight)||574.84|
|Large Ocean-Going Ship (>100K tons Deadweight)||1043.4|
Here is what I take from this data:
- Full loads are much more efficient than partial loads.
I have read that one of the ways that Walmart achieves such remarkable distribution efficiency is by making sure that every load is full. This makes sense.
- Going downstream is easier than upstream.
This also makes a lot of sense.
- If you are going to ship freight on the ocean, use a large ship.
The efficiency of large ships explains the large increase in the number of enormous container vessels over the years.