Mobility is essential to our modern way of life. The efficient transport of goods has become key to our ever more globalised economy. Freight, for example, has almost doubled over the past 30 years.
Steel facilitates our mobility and the transport of goods. Whether in the form of bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, trains, ships or planes – or in the transport networks that support them – steel is essential to every mode of transport. Continuously reinforced concrete roadways are structurally supported by steel rebar and help to improve fuel efficiency for large vehicles.
Steel is well-suited to transport applications because it is durable, strong (providing safety in the case of collision), lightweight, UV-resistant, affordable, and 100% recyclable. Innovations in design and the development of new high-strength steels have also played a key role in improving the efficiency of many of these transport modes whilst at the same time considerably reducing life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (see automotive section).
Including automotive, around 16% of steel produced worldwide is used to meet society’s transport needs. Steel is also essential to the related infrastructure: roads, bridges, ports, stations, airports and fueling.
Some major applications include:
For ships and shipping containers
Shipbuilding traditionally uses structural steel plate to fabricate ship hulls. Modern steel plates have much higher tensile strengths than their predecessors, making them much better suited to the efficient construction of large container ships. A particular type of plate is available with a designed resistance to corrosion, ideal for building oil tankers. Such steels make possible much lighter vessels than before, or larger-capacity vessels of the same weight, offering significant opportunities to save on fuel consumption and hence CO2.
Steel ships transport 90% of the world's cargo. An estimated number of 17 million containers of varying types made up the worldwide container fleet and the majority are made of steel.
For trains and rail cars
Rail transport requires steel in the trains and for the rails and infrastructure. For short or medium haul journeys, rail reduces travel times and CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer compared to nearly all other forms of transport.
Steel makes up 15% of the mass of high speed trains and is essential.The main steel components of these trains are bogies (the structure underneath the trains including wheels, axels, bearings and motors). Freight or goods wagons are made almost entirely of steel.
Steel is required for the engines and landing gear.
Transport networks: steel is used in bridges, tunnels, rail track, and in constructing buildings such as fueling stations, train stations, ports and airports. About 60% of steel use in infrastructure is rebar. The rest is sections and rail track.
Benefits of using steel in transport applications