Transportation Sector and Supply Chain Performance and Sustainability

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - performance, infrastructure - vehicle, land use - impacts, policy - sustainable, organisation - performance, organisation - management, mode - rail, mode - mass transit


Water transportation, Vehicle exhaust, Trucking, Truck transportation, Transit, Sustainable development, Sustainability, Supply chain management, Railroad transportation, Rail transportation, Public transit, Pipeline transportation, Motor truck transportation, Mass transit, Maritime transport, Marine transportation, Local transit, Impacts, Greenhouse gases, Exhaust gases, Exhaust emissions, Energy utilization, Energy consumption, Economic impacts, Automobile exhaust, Air transportation


Indicators of sustainability and environmental performance can be useful for comparing modes, discerning trends, and formulating appropriate policies. This paper considers the performance of U.S. transportation service sectors through use of 1992 and 1997 benchmark input–output models. Use of these models permits assessment of not only the direct performance of the sectors but also the supply chain impacts required for operation of the transportation sectors. Consideration of indirect impacts is critical for assessment of the overall costs and impacts of particular products or services. Six transportation service sectors (air, rail, water, truck, transit, and pipeline) are examined. Economic impact, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and toxic emissions are examined. The transportation sectors use large amounts of energy, both in total and per dollar of output and on a per service basis. Pipeline and water transportation have particularly large energy requirements per dollar of output, likely reflecting higher energy intensity and lower labor intensity in these modes. Truck transportation is the most energy intensive of the freight transportation modes per ton-mile of service, but it has a trend toward greater energy efficiency. For greenhouse gas emissions, truck, water, and air transportation have the highest emissions per dollar of output. Water transportation freight rates are sufficiently low that emissions on a per ton-mile basis would be correspondingly low. Finally, the supply chain (indirect) toxic emissions per dollar of output are highest for rail and pipeline transportation. There is considerable work to be done to improve the overall sustainability of the different transportation modes.