Source: ITF Transport Statistics.
The respective share of transportation modes reflects different geographical conditions in which transport systems operate. The most basic ones are related to country size and the amount of coastline available. While within the European Union, China, and Japan, road and coastal shipping account for the great majority of ton-km, rail dominates in the United States and Russia. The regional resource base impacts the cargo composition, with a high endowment in natural resources generating more rail activity than manufacturing and services. The continental distribution of the American and Russian populations into specialized regions (manufacturing, agriculture, resources) is prone to long-distance rail shipments. The reliance on pipelines to supply fossil fuels, namely petroleum and natural gas, is also apparent in the United States, particularly in Russia, a major producer and exporter. For Europe and Japan, high population densities and the relatively short distances involved favor trucking.
However, there are almost no inland waterways in Japan because of its geography. Coastal transportation is very important in Europe, China, and Japan because of the coastal orientation of the population and the separation of some of their regions by water bodies (the Baltic and the Mediterranean in Europe, the Yellow Sea in China, while Japan is an archipelago). The length of the coastline favors a higher usage of coastal shipping, but for the United States, the efficiency of the rail and road transport systems confer a lesser role for coastal shipping. For Russia, the large amount of coastline involves the Arctic and the Pacific, which are sparsely populated, with parts closed to navigation during winter.