Nevada highways are no stranger to industry commerce and the large haul trucks that are at the forefront of transportation.
Truck freighting has been at the center of most commercial operations because of its flexibility and direct delivery capabilities for decades, but adjacency to distribution hubs on the west coast and industry-laden parcels spanning the open lands puts Nevada’s freight and rail development in a promising position to grasp a spot amongst the leaders in the country for logistics.
Why then, does the reliance on haul truck driving continue to significantly top freight and rail if rail is both geographically advantageous and better for the environment?
According to a study done by the Nevada Department of Transportation, 70 percent of the freight trucks traveling along Nevadan roads are traveling to and from California. With these trucks generating substantial traffic congestion along roadways and meager economic stimulation for Nevada, a refined approach to supply and demand is on the horizon.
Industry experts say the assumption that natural resources will prevail infinitely is fading fast and a more economically liable option must be carefully calculated in order to reach a symbiotic alternative to haul trucking alone. Authorities contest that when haul trucking and rail are used in conjunction, friendly competition and optimal use of both assets benefits the environment and the economy.
Companies like OnTrackNorthAmerica, Strategic Rail Finance, Southwest Supply Chain Coalition, and the Nevada Department of Transportation are examining nuanced approaches to Nevada’s ecological responsibilities and the transportation of goods and resources.
“Enhancement of Northern Nevada’s rail infrastructure will be crucial to capitalizing on the region’s overall economic potential,” said Regional Development Authority Executive Director for Northeastern Nevada, Sheldon Mudd. “Especially for Lander, Eureka, Elko, and White Pine counties who are situated dead center in the middle of the Western United States. From a logistical perspective, the ground is fertile for the next warehousing and distribution industry cluster but it can’t be done without readily available rail and interstate access.”
Convenience and custom have dominated the transportation industry for decades, but the price of fuel, federally funded infrastructure allocations, and tribulation within the country’s supply chain are leveraging critical changes within the State’s policies for freight and passenger rail. For rural Nevada, the implicit need for innovation within freight and rail could spur necessary growth in many communities.
“The way to think about it is that trucks are good for taking individual shipments from a transportation center —like a port or intermodal facility— to a customer or vice versa, but a long haul from Chicago to Long Beach or Kansas City to the San Francisco Bay that goes straight through (Nevada) would be better on a freight train, leaving the roads for citizens, tourists, and trucks making local deliveries,” explained Robert Holmes, an OnTrackNorthAmerica Public Relations and Communications Volunteer, via online correspondence.
The new approach to rail is implementing a vast range of communications with both private and public sectors that can work together to create a system that’s benefits do not just stop at state lines. It is easy to succumb to short-sighted business ideals that do not require the same understanding and complex relationships as those forged amongst entities that stand to make gains from a more comprehensive and forward-thinking rail system. According to the Association of American Railroads, freight is the most fuel-efficient way to move goods and resources, with rail cars able to move one ton, or two thousand pounds, of materials 500 hundred miles on just one gallon of fuel. Several hundred trucks could be replaced by just a single freight train. With stats like these, it is no wonder that the State and private corporations are moving towards a more efficient supply system. As of 2019, NDOT has worked towards a more refined design for rail transportation. The new State Rail Plan utilized methods geared to enhance safety with inherently safer modes of rail travel, perpetuate infrastructure by alleviating maintenance expenses for state and federal highways due to wear and tear from trucks, improve mobility with efficient use of rail infrastructure, expand local economies by growing industrial development, cultivate sustainability by reducing traffic emissions, and connect communities through both freight and passenger options.
This integrated approach to both transportation and infrastructure has the potential to put Nevada ahead in development opportunities and paves the way for a more efficient future.
“The advent of this or other prospective industries would undoubtedly enhance and diversify rural Nevada’s economy and lead to added jobs, revenue, and overall quality of life for every Nevadan,” said Mudd.