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  Chapter Thirteen:
 
TRANSPORTATION
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  Passengers
  Freight
  Traffic
  Traffic Deaths
  Bicycles

  

 

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TRANSPORTATION

Freight

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The tonnage of domestic freight carried by rail increased throughout the century, while the tonnage carried by trucks, waterways, and pipelines began to increase around 1930. Trucks ranked behind other carriers in the tonnage they transported but ahead of all other carriers in the value of their shipments.
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Unlike rail passenger traffic, rail freight traffic continued to grow with the national economy. More tonnage was carried by rail than by truck. And the combined tonnage carried by less visible modes of transportation—inland waterways and oil pipelines—exceeded the tonnage carried by truck. 

But the value of truck shipments was much higher than the value of rail, waterway, and pipeline shipments. Railroads, waterways, and pipelines tended to carry bulk cargoes, while trucks typically carried finished goods. In 1997, trucks carried less than half of the total ton-miles of freight, but almost 90 percent of the total value. 

The great expansion of truck traffic after 1950 coincided with the construction of the interstate highway system. The increasing use of heavy trucks for shipping time-valued goods of all kinds was a major factor in the growth of the suburbs, commercial strip development, industrial relocation, and other centrifugal trends that reshaped American communities. 

Despite the growing importance of air express and air package services, air freight does not appear on the chart. Only a fraction of 1 percent of intercity freight tonnage— and only 3 percent of intercity freight measured by value—moved by air. But air freight occupied a critical niche for time-sensitive items such as cut flowers, fresh seafood, and zoo animals. 

Air freight statistics do not include packages shipped by the postal service and its competitors. The U.S. Postal Service alone shipped 1.2 million tons of mail by air in 1998. The United Parcel Service estimated that the packages it shipped in 1998 were worth about 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The advent of Internet shopping also accelerated the growth of package delivery to consumers. Many of these packages moved by air at some point in their journey.


Chapter 13 chart 2

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

For value of shipments, see HS series Q 148–162, Q 251–263, Q 331–345, and Q 530–541; SA 1999, table 1014 and 1017. For UPS and the Internet, see www.ups.com (accessed October 1, 2000).

 

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