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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More than 1,500 deaths a year from heavy truck accidents could be prevented if freight shippers used a combination of trucks and trains, a University of Tennessee study indicates.

Using railroads in addition to trucks would reduce truck traffic and the number of truck-related accidents, Dr. Arun Chatterjee of UT-Knoxville’s Transportation Center said.

Trucks normally carrying freight from Tennessee to California, for example, would take the cargo to Atlanta or another rail center and ship it the rest of the way by train, Chatterjee, UT-Knoxville professor of civil engineering, said.

“One double-stack container train represents about 200 (truck) trailers not being moved over highways,” Chatterjee said.

Up to 1,568 lives could be saved in the year 2010 through systems of transportation that combine truck and rail, he predicted.

Chatterjee and his research colleagues estimate that moving freight by truck and rail prevented up to 495 heavy truck fatalities in 1992 and reduced fatalities from truck accidents by 13 percent.

The study indicates that up to 27,843 traffic accidents overall were prevented in 1992 through intermodal (truck-rail) systems. The researchers predict up to 88,000 accidents overall could be prevented in the year 2010, depending on growth in the transportation industry.

In the past, intermodal transport has not been used because of competition between truck and rail companies, because it was slower, and because there were not enough intermodal loading terminals, Chatterjee said.

Most of those obstacles have been overcome and more companies are forming intermodal partnerships, he said. Continued use of intermodal systems will save more lives and money in the future, he said.

“This study shows that intermodal transportation can be considered a very cost-effective influence on highway safety in terms of accident reduction,” Chatterjee said.

The study, co-directed by David Clarke, was financed by the Southeastern Transportation Center, a consortium of university transportation research centers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Contact: Dr. Arun Chatterjee (423-974-7714)