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How Plastic Is Used In Transportation

Plastics are everywhere—so much so that you may not even be aware of how ubiquitous they are.

One example of a place where plastics play an important role is in transportation, particularly public and commercial transportation. Plastics are used in everything from buses and subway cars to taxis and ambulances.

How Plastics Are Used In Public Transportation

Plastics have replaced many materials that were once used in public transportation and other types of vehicles. Where once there might have been components made of metal, glass, or wood, now it’s some form of plastics.

Here are some ways plastics are used today in many commercial vehicles.

Windows and Windshields

Transparent polycarbonate thermoplastics such as those used for vehicle use are significantly stronger than glass. Those polycarbonates used for windows and windshields can be as much as 250 times stronger and are highly impact resistant.

Using plastic glazing for windshields and windows, vehicles enjoy greater impact resistance, and passengers are not subject to thousands of shards of broken glass in case of an accident.

Partitions and Shelters

Transparent acrylic and polycarbonate thermoplastics are often used to make the partitions that separate drivers, passengers, and sometimes passengers from each other.

While transparent plastics are often used to drivers can see passengers behind them via a mirror, they can also come in translucent shades of bronze or gray for increased privacy.

Transparent thermoplastics are an excellent solution in bus shelters or other outdoor waiting areas. They will not only stand up to harsh weather conditions—keeping passengers safer and more comfortable—but are also resistant to scratches, fire, and yellowing over time. They can also come in various colors and shades for easy customization.

Floor Paneling

Thermoplastics are commonly used as flooring for many mass transit applications. The right plastics are sturdy enough to accommodate hundreds of thousands of passengers daily, and their non-slip features make them the safest option.

It’s also well known that plastics are generally easier to clean than other materials. As a result, maintenance tasks such as cleaning up spills and sanitizing can be conducted quickly, efficiently, and without negatively affecting the surface.

Mirrors and Other Reflective Surfaces

Acrylic mirror is as reflective as a traditional glass mirror but is much stronger and more impact resistant. Drivers use these mirrors to see passengers better and in waiting areas so passengers can get visual warnings about any oncoming vehicles.

In addition to their sturdiness, mirrors made from processed thermoplastics are heat-resistant and UV-stabilized, making them better suited to withstand hot summer days.

Storage Cabinets, Shelves, and Bins

Trains, buses, and some subway cars provide shelves or bins for passengers to place belongings. Because thermoplastic materials are strong, they can hold a good load without fear of breaking. In addition, they’re lightweight, which helps with mileage and overall performance, and offer considerable convenience.

Plastics can be formed into any shape or size, so there are plenty of opportunities to custom-make cabinets or storage bins to fit the space available.


Mass transit signs inform passengers of routes, availability, and other important information. When used in advertising, it helps cover the costs of operation. Plastics are ideal for signage and advertising as they can withstand outdoor conditions, be cleaned easily, and last longer than signs made of paper-based materials.

Engine Parts

Many polymer materials' durability and heat resistance make them a popular choice for particular vehicle parts such as reservoirs, casings, and covers. In addition, materials such as polycarbonates can be easily formed into whatever shape is needed. In addition to appearing “under the hood,” plastics are also used in consoles and control panels.

Other Benefits of Plastics

Using plastics in commercial transportation goes beyond strength, impact resistance, and light weight. Other advantages include:

  • Moisture-resistant. Plastic does not rust like metal
  • Sound acoustical insulation
  • Easy to form into complex parts
  • Available in virtually any color
  • Various grades available that are resistant to fuels, lubricants, and cleaning chemicals
  • Many grades meet vehicle flammability standards
  • Grades available that comply with ANSI Z26.1-1996 safety standards for vehicles

Common Types of Plastics Used In Transportation

Many types of plastics can be used for transportation-based applications. Here is a list of some of the most common ones.

  • ABS
  • Acetal
  • Acrylics
  • Celtec®
  • Dibond®
  • Expanded PVC
  • HDPE
  • KYDEX®
  • Nylon
  • OPTIX®
  • Plexiglass
  • Polycarbonates
  • Polypropylene
  • Silicone

Find Out More About Commercial Transportation Plastic

If you have more questions about how plastics can help with your transportation-based project, give us a call. The materials teams at Piedmont Plastics have extensive knowledge of what plastics work best for specific applications.

Contact us today for more information.