Road transport

Road transport

Road transport (British English) or road transportation (American English) is transport on roads of passengers or goods.

A hybrid of road transport and ship transport is the historic horse-drawn boat.


The first forms of road transport were horses, oxen or even humans carrying goods over dirt tracks that often followed game trails. As commerce increased, the tracks were often flattened or widened to accommodate the activities. Later, the travois, a frame used to drag loads, was developed. The wheel came still later, probably preceded by the use of logs as rollers.

With the advent of the Roman Empire, there was a need for armies to be able to travel quickly from one area to another, and the roads that existed were often muddy, which greatly delayed the movement of large masses of troops. To resolve this issue, the Romans built great roads. The Roman roads used deep roadbeds of crushed stone as an underlying layer to ensure that they kept dry, as the water would flow out from the crushed stone, instead of becoming mud in clay soils.

During the Industrial Revolution, and because of the increased commerce that came with it, improved roadways became imperative. The problem was rain combined with dirt roads created commerce-miring mud. John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836) designed the first modern highways. He developed an inexpensive paving material of soil and stone aggregate (known as macadam), and he embanked roads a few feet higher than the surrounding terrain to cause water to drain away from the surface. At the same time, Thomas Telford, made substantial advances in the engineering of new roads and the construction of bridges, particularly, the London to Holyhead road.

Various systems had been developed over centuries to reduce bogging and dust in cities, including cobblestones and wooden paving. Tar-bound macadam (tarmac) was applied to macadam roads towards the end of the 19th century in cities such as Paris. In the early 20th century tarmac and concrete paving were extended into the countryside.


Transport on roads can be roughly grouped into two categories: transportation of goods and transportation of people. In many countries licencing requirements and safety regulations ensure a separation of the two industries.

The nature of road transportation of goods depends, apart from the degree of development of the local infrastructure, on the distance the goods are transported by road, the weight and volume of the individual shipment and the type of goods transported. For short distances and light, small shipments a van or pickup truck may be used. For large shipments even if less than a full truckload (Less than truckload) a truck is more appropriate. (Also see Trucking and Hauling below). In some countries cargo is transported by road in horse-drawn carriages, donkey carts or other non-motorized mode (see animal-powered transport). Delivery services (see Delivery (commerce)) are sometimes considered a separate category from cargo transport. In many places fast food is transported on roads by various types of vehicles. For inner city delivery of small packages and documents bike couriers are quite common.

People (Passengers) are transported on roads either in individual cars or automobiles or in mass transit/public transport by bus / Coach (vehicle). Special modes of individual transport by road like rikshas or velotaxis may also be locally available. (Also see links below).

Trucking and Hauling

Trucking companies (AE) or haulers/hauliers (BE) accept cargo for road transportation.

In Australia road trains replace rail transport for goods on many routes. Low-loader or flat-bed trailers are used to haul containers, see containerization, in intermodal transport. Truck drivers operate either independently working directly for the client or through freight carriers or shipping agents. Some big companies (e.g. grocery store chains) operate their own internal trucking operations.

In the U.S. many truckers own their truck (rig), and are known as owner-operators. Some road transportation is done on regular routes or for only one consignee per run, while others transport goods from many different loading stations/shippers to various consignees. On some long runs only cargo for one lag of the route (to) is known when the cargo is loaded. Truckers may have to wait at the destination for the return cargo (from).

A Bill of Lading issued by the shipper provides the basic document for road freight. On cross-border transportation the trucker will present the cargo and documentation provided by the shipper to customs for inspection (for EC see also Schengen Agreement ). This also applies to shipments that are transported out of a Free port.

To avoid accidents caused by fatigue truckers have to keep to strict rules for drivetime and required rest perionds. Known in the U.S. as hours of service, and in the E.U. as drivers working hours. See e.g. "Hours of Work and Rest Periods (Road Transport) Convention, 1979" or [] . Tachographs record the times the vehicle is in motion and stopped. Some companies use two drivers per truck to ensure uninterrupted transportation; with one driver resting or sleeping in a bunk in the back of the cab while the other is driving. (see e.g. [] or [] .

For transport of hazardous materials (see dangerous goods) truckers need a licence, which usually requires them to pass an exam (e.g. in the EU). They have to make sure they affix proper labels for the respective hazard(s) to their vehicle. Liquid goods are transported by road in tank trucks (AE) or tanker lorries (BE) (also road-tankers) or special tankcontainers for intermodal transport. For unpackaged goods and liquids weigh stations confirm weight after loading and before delivery. For transportion of live animals special requirements have to be met in many countries to prevent cruelty to animals (see animal rights). For fresh and frozen goods refrigerator trucks or reefer (container)s are used.

Truck drivers often need special licenses to drive, known in the U.S. as a commercial driver's license. In the U.K. a Large Goods Vehicle license is required.

Modern roads

Today roadways are principally asphalt or concrete. Both are based on McAdam's concept of stone aggregate in a binder, asphalt cement or Portland cement respectively. Asphalt is known as a flexible pavement, one which slowly will "flow" under the pounding of traffic. Concrete is a rigid pavement, which can take heavier loads but is more expensive and requires more carefully prepared subbase. So, generally, major roads are concrete and local roads are asphalt. Often concrete roads are covered with a thin layer of asphalt to create a wearing surface.

Modern pavements are designed for heavier vehicle loads and faster speeds, requiring thicker slabs and deeper subbase. Subbase is the layer or successive layers of stone, gravel and sand supporting the pavement. It is needed to spread out the slab load bearing on the underlying soil and to conduct away any water getting under the slabs. Water will undermine a pavement over time, so much of pavement and pavement joint design are meant to minimize the amount of water getting and staying under the slabs.

Shoulders are also an integral part of highway design. They are multipurpose; they can provide a margin of side clearance, a refuge for incapacitated vehicles, an emergency lane, and parking space. They also serve a design purpose, and that is to prevent water from percolating into the soil near the main pavement's edge. Shoulder pavement is designed to a lower standard than the pavement in the traveled way and won't hold up as well to traffic. (Which is why driving on the shoulder is generally prohibited.)

Pavement technology is still evolving, albeit in not easily noticed increments. For instance, chemical additives in the pavement mix make the pavement more weather resistant, grooving and other surface treatments improve resistance to skidding and hydroplaning, and joint seals which were once tar are now made of low maintenance neoprene.

Traffic control

Nearly all roadways are built with devices meant to control traffic. Most notable to the motorist are those meant to communicate directly with the driver. Broadly, these fall into three categories: signs, signals or pavement markings. They help the driver navigate; they assign the right-of-way at intersections; they indicate laws such as speed limits and parking regulations; they advise of potential hazards; they indicate passing and no passing zones; and otherwise deliver information and to assure traffic is orderly and safe.

200 years ago these devices were signs, nearly all informal. In the late 19th century signals began to appear in the biggest cities at a few highly congested intersections. They were manually operated, and consisted of semaphores, flags or paddles, or in some cases colored electric lights, all modeled on railroad signals. In the 20th century signals were automated, at first with electromechanical devices and later with computers. Signals can be quite sophisticated: with vehicle sensors embedded in the pavement, the signal can control and choreograph the turning movements of heavy traffic in the most complex of intersections. In the 1920s traffic engineers learned how to coordinate signals along a thoroughfare to increase its speeds and volumes. In the 1980s, with computers, similar coordination of whole networks became possible.

In the 1920s pavement markings were introduced. Initially they were used to indicate the road’s centerline. Soon after they were coded with information to aid motorists in passing safely. Later, with multi lane roads they were used to define lanes. Other uses, such as indicating permitted turning movements and pedestrian crossings soon followed.

In the 20th century traffic control devices were standardized. Before then every locality decided on what its devices would look like and where they would be applied. This could be confusing, especially to traffic from outside the locality. In the United States standardization was first taken at the state level, and late in the century at the federal level. Each country has a Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and there are efforts to blend them into a worldwide standard.

Besides signals signs and markings, other forms of traffic control are designed and built into the roadway. For instance, curbs and rumble strips can be used to keep traffic in a given lane and median barriers can prevent left turns and even U-turns.

Pneumatic tires

As the horse-drawn carriage was replaced by the car and lorry or truck, and speeds increased, the need for smoother roads and less vertical displacement became more apparent, and pneumatic tires were developed to decrease the apparent roughness. Wagon and carriage wheels, made of wood, had a tire in the form of an iron strip that kept the wheel from wearing out quickly. Pneumatic tires, which had a larger footprint than iron tires, also were less likely to get bogged down in the mud on unpaved roads.

Toll roads in the United States

Early toll roads were usually built by private companies under a government franchise. They typically paralleled or replaced routes already with some volume of commerce, hoping the improved road would divert enough traffic to make the enterprise profitable. Plank roads were particularly attractive as they greatly reduced rolling resistance and mitigated the problem of getting mired in mud. Another improvement, better grading to lessen the steepness of the worst stretches, allowed draft animals to haul heavier loads.

A "toll road" in the United States is often called a "turnpike". The term "turnpike" probably originated from the gate, often a simple pike, which blocked passage until the fare was paid at a "toll house" (or "toll booth" in current terminology). When the toll was paid the pike, which was mounted on a swivel, was turned to allow the vehicle to pass. Tolls were usually based on the type of cargo being transported, not the type of vehicle. The practice of selecting routes so as to avoid tolls is called shunpiking. This may be simply to avoid the expense, as a form of economic protest (or boycott), or simply to seek a road less traveled as a bucolic interlude.

History, funding through tolls

Companies were formed to build, improve, and maintain a particular section of roadway, and tolls were collected from users to finance the enterprise. The enterprise was usually named to indicate the locale of its roadway, often including the name of one of both of the termini. The word "turnpike" came into common use in the names of these roadways and companies, and is essentially used interchangeably with "toll road" in current terminology.

In the United States, toll roads began with the Lancaster Turnpike in the 1790s, within Pennsylvania, connecting Philadelphia and Lancaster.

In New York State, the Great Western Turnpike was started in Albany in 1799 and eventually extended, by several alternate routes, to near what is now Syracuse, New York.

Toll roads peaked in the mid 19th century, and by the turn of the twentieth century most toll roads were taken over by state highway departments. The demise of this early toll road era was due to the rise of canals and railroads, which were more efficient (and thus cheaper) in moving freight over long distances. Roads wouldn't again be competitive with rails and barges until the first half of the 20th century when the internal combustion engine replaces draft animals as the source of motive power.

With the development, mass production, and popular embrace of the automobile, faster and higher capacity roads were needed. In the 1920s limited access highways appeared. Their main characteristics were dual roadways with access points limited to (but not always) grade-separated interchanges. Their dual roadways allowed high volumes of traffic, the need for no or few traffic lights along with relatively gentle grades and curves allowed higher speeds.

The first limited access highways were "Parkways", so called because of their often park-like landscaping and, in the metropolitan New York City area, they connected the region's system of parks. When the German Autobahns built in the 1930s introduced higher design standards and speeds, road planners and road-builders in the United States started developing and building toll roads to similar high standards. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, which largely followed the path of a partially-built railroad, was the first, opening in 1940.

After 1940 with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, toll roads saw a resurgence, this time to fund limited access highways. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, after World War II interrupted the evolution of the highway, the US resumed building toll roads. They were to still higher standards and one road, the New York State Thruway, had standards that became the prototype for the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Several other major toll-roads which connected with the Pennsylvania Turnpike were established before the creation of the Interstate Highway System. These were the Indiana Toll Road, Ohio Turnpike, and New Jersey Turnpike.

US Interstate Highway system

In the United States, beginning in 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, commonly called the Interstate Highway System was built. It uses 12 foot (3.65m) lanes, wide medians, a maximum of 4% grade, and full access control, though many sections don't meet these standards due to older construction or constraints. This system created a continental-sized network meant to connect every population center of 50,000 people or more.

By 1956, most limited access highways in the eastern United States were toll roads. In that year, the federal Interstate highway program was established, funding non-toll roads with 90% federal dollars and 10% state match, giving little incentive for states to expand their turnpike system. Funding rules initially restricted collections of tolls on newly funded roadways, bridges, and tunnels. In some situations, expansion or rebuilding of a toll facility using Interstate Highway Program funding resulted in the removal of existing tolls. This occurred in Virginia on Interstate 64 at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel when a second parallel roadway to the regional 1958 bridge-tunnel was completed in 1976.

Since the completion of the initial portion of the interstate highway system, regulations were changed, and portions of toll facilities have been added to the system. Some states are again looking at toll financing for new roads and maintenance, to supplement limited federal funding. In some areas, new road projects have been completed with public-private partnerships funded by tolls, such as the Pocahontas Parkway (I-895) near Richmond, Virginia.

Road transport and the environment

By subsector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming [] (74%) [ [ Climate change ] ] .

ee also

* Vehicle

Other topics:

External links

* [ Road Transport in the European Union]
*IRTE ( [ Institute of Road Transport Engineers] )
* [ Car Transportation Companies]
* [ Demo applet of a evolutionary algorithm for automated transportation planning]


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