Mobility is important to the light of modern lifestyles. Efficient transportation of goods has become a key aspect of our globalized economy. Shipping rates, for example, have nearly doubled over the past 30 years. Steel provides robust, safe, and sustainable transportation solutions that facilitate our mobility and the movement of goods. Whether it’s bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, trains, ships, or planes, or the transportation network that supports them, steel is a must. Reinforced concrete roads are structurally supported by steel bars, helping to improve the fuel efficiency of large vehicles.
Steel is ideal for transportation applications because it is durable, strong (providing adequate safety in the event of a crash), lightweight, UV resistant, affordable, and 100% recyclable. Design innovation and development of new high-strength steels have also played a key role in increasing the efficiency of many of these modes of transport, while significantly reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
How steel is used for transportation?
Including automobiles, about 16% of the steel produced globally is used to meet the transportation needs of society. Steel is also essential for the associated infrastructure: roads, bridges, ports, stations, airports, gas stations, etc. Some major applications include:
For ships and containers
Traditionally, the shipbuilding industry has used structural steel plates to manufacture ship hulls. The tensile strength of modern steel plates is much higher than their predecessors, making them more suitable for the efficient construction of large container ships. A special type of steel plate with a corrosion-resistant design is ideal for building oil tankers. This steel allows the manufacture of lighter-than-previous containers or larger-capacity containers of the same weight, offering significant opportunities to save fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Ships built using steel transport 90% of the world’s cargo. There are an estimated 17 million containers of different types in the global container fleet, most of which are made of steel.
For trains and railcars
Steel is used in trains, railways, and infrastructure. For short- and medium-distance travel, rail reduces travel time and CO2 emissions per passenger per kilometer compared to almost all other modes of transport.
Steel accounts for 15% of the mass of high-speed trains and is essential. The main steel component of these trains is the bogie (the structure below the train that includes the wheels, axles, bearings, and motors). Freight trains or wagons are made almost entirely of steel.
The engines and landing gear used in aircraft are made of steel.
Steel is used in bridges, tunnels, railways, and in the construction of buildings such as gas stations, railway stations, ports, and airports. About 60% of the steel used in infrastructure is rebar.
The benefits of using steel in the transportation industry
- Contains recycled steel and is endlessly recyclable
- Is strong
- Reusable rail tracks
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