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Guide to Intermodal Topics on TERC

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This page provides a guide to resources available on TERC for environmental topics related to intermodal transporation, including issues relating both to regulatory requirements and to pollution prevention.

Regulatory requirements

In general, the fact that a shipment is intermodal does not affect the environmental regulations that apply to the mode taken along any given leg of the route. At transfer facilities, where at least two modes are operating at the same location, operators may need to be aware of two overlapping sets of regulations. But as far as the regulations are concerned, the whole is fundamentally the sum of the parts. See the TERC All Topics page for a complete listing of regulatory topics covered on TERC, together with an indication of which transportation modes are affected by each topic.

Pollution prevention

In contrast, if the goal is to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize carbon emissions, it is not enough to consider each mode in isolation. TERC has developed a set of resources to help users understand and evaluate the environmental consequences of transportation-related choices.

  • With the TERC Intermodal Carbon Emissions Calculator, users can compare the fuel use and emissions from each leg of an intermodal shipment with alternative routings and modes, and see the results displayed side-by-side on a bar graph for easy comparision.

  • It takes more fuel, and creates more carbon emissions, to move a bulky package than a smaller package of the same weight. The TERC Bulk Buster spreadsheet calculates the relative contribution to fuel consumption and emissions from each item in a mixed load, based on the density of the item. In addition to demonstrating the reason why carriers have started to charge for bulk through "dimensional pricing", this information can also be used to determine the best way to match vehicle type and item density to minimize overall fuel use.

  • Speed wastes fuel, but so does driving too slowly. What is the best speed for fuel economy? The TERC Best Speed for Fuel Economy spreadsheet lets users find that speed for a wide range of vehicles across all transportation modes. Default data are provided for a selection of passenger cars, light and heavy trucks, locomotives, vessels, and aircraft. The results may surprise you.

More resources

The TERC intermodal resources listed above focus on emissions coming directly from fuel. The more fuel used for a given shipment, the higher the cost, and the greater the carbon emissions. It makes sense for shippers, logistics providers, and carriers to focus on these costs and impacts in particular, since those are the costs that their mode and routing choices can minimize, and since they are the ones who stand to benefit, directly or indirectly, from potential savings. Users who are looking for more comprehensive information on total impact, including emissions due to extraction and processing of the fuels, may find the following useful:

  • The Argonne National Lab's GREET Well to Wheels Explorer provides information on the entire fuel life cycle, including emissions associated with fuel production.

The following TERC topic pages also contain information relevant to intermodal operations: