Applications & Materials Selection for the Transportation Industry

For our purposes, the transportation industry includes:

  • Heavier Trucks and Buses
  • Railway cars (local and long distance passenger-carrying and cargo-carrying)
  • Aerospace
  • Ships/Marine 

Heavier Trucks and Buses

This segment of the transportation industry has some similarities to the Automotive sector. 

Fuel cells are of interest, especially for buses. 

Similarly, long-lasting and efficient Batteries that are used in hybrid buses or trucks are important to obtain cost-effective lower-emission vehicles. 

Sustainability concerns also arise when designing and operating vehicles, especially those owned by municipalities or other government bodies. 

In public transportation vehicles, the materials used can also be of concern from a Health and Safety viewpoint, as well as Recyclability, similar to the automotive industry.

Trucks carrying cargos of food or beverages, chemicals or wastes are usually made of stainless steels, and occasionally other nickel-containing materials.  Further information on what types of stainless to use and their mechanical and corrosion-resistant properties can be found in the Food and Beverage pages or the Chemical, Pharmaceutical & Petrochemical pages.

Railway Cars (local and long-distance passenger-carrying and cargo-carrying)

Nickel-containing stainless steel has been used in passenger railcars since the 1930’s, when the first streamlined Zephyr train was introduced by the Budd Company.  Today stainless steels are used in all types of passenger cars on rails, from Metro (underground and above ground systems) to long distance coaches.  Stainless steel provides a long-lasting approach, with pleasing aesthetic qualities, low maintenance and long life, and a high level of crashworthiness.  See for example Stainless Steel for the Long Haul (Nickel Magazine, June 2011). 

The Sustainability of Stainless Steel Railcars is discussed in a new ISSF publication.

The infrastructure built around public transit systems often employs stainless steels, providing a durable, low maintenance and attractive appearance to high traffic stations.  See for example Metro Line Expansion (Nickel Magazine, June 2011).

The tanks of cargo-carrying railcars are sometimes made of stainless steel.  Help with alloy selection can be found in the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Petrochemical pages.


The modern jet turbine is made possible through the use of special high nickel alloys.  See More Efficient Turbines (Nickel Magazine, Mar. 2007).  The properties of a number of the alloys used in this sector are summarized in NI Publication 393 including a supplement at the back of the publication. 

Other components such as landing gear are often made using special stainless steels from the Precipitation Hardenable family. 

Other applications related to aerospace alloys include the use of molds made of nickel-containing materials to form composite components for the modern commercial aircraft.  See for example Light Flight (Nickel Magazine, Mar. 2008).


Transportation on the waters includes craft as small as pleasure boats to large ocean freighters carrying various cargos from wine to petroleum products.

Copper-nickel alloys (90/10 or 70/30) have excellent seawater corrosion resistance combined with good anti-fouling properties to prevent marine growth from attaching.  NI Publication 12014 gives properties and fabrication data on this often neglected family of materials.  See also the Copper-Nickel pages of the Copper Development Institute website.

Stainless steels are also used in waters ranging from fresh to brackish to seawater.  For the resistance of stainless steels to waters, see NI Publication 11003.

The tanks of many chemical tankers are made of stainless steel.  Help with alloy selection can be found in the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Petrochemical pages.

This section of the website will be expanded in due course.  In the meantime, have a look at our related Publications and our related Nickel Magazine stories.