An Interactive R Shiny Application for Calculating Monetary Value of Emissions and Accidents

Emission and Accident Costs of Truck and Rail Freight Transportation

Huajing Shi
Geek Culture
Published in
11 min readMay 3, 2021


Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

The economy depends on the efficient movement of freight. There is a strong correlation, between truck and rail ton-miles of travel and real gross domestic product (REF). However, to varying degrees, freight transportation services generate costs that are borne by others. These costs are generally referred as external costs.

External transportation costs are costs generated by transport users and not paid by them but by society as a whole, such as the costs of emissions, accidents, noise and congestion. Ideally each unit of transportation service used (e.g., a ton-mile of freight) could be assigned a price that would reflect the full incremental cost to society of that unit of consumption.

In this article we would focus on two external costs, i.e., emission costs and accident costs for truck and rail freight transport. Accurate monetary estimates of emission and accident costs have been difficult to obtain. To place these costs in a useful context, we would also calculate the pavement damage costs generated from truck modal, and the transportation costs that directly charged for the transportation service.

In general, rail and truck compete in markets involving distances that are relatively short for rail yet relatively long for truck. Most often, the value of freight shipped by truck is higher than that shipped by rail, but the weight shipped by rail is higher than that shipped by truck.

The extent of any shift in modally competitive freight in a given market would depend on many factors, such as relative prices, quality of service, the extent to which the two modes are able to serve the same markets, and specific shipper requirements, among others. The change in modal share can only be speculated on, and it is not our objective to argue for greater use of one mode or another.

Application Design

A R-Shiny application is developed to calculate the monetary value of emission and accident costs on selected origin/destination routes for truck and rail freight transport.