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Old 02-25-2015, 12:06 AM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
1,392 posts, read 1,275,413 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2nd trick op View Post
Way back in the 1960's, not long after intermodal freight began its first spurt of growth, an MIT professor named Ann Friedlander launched the first study to determine at what point (as measured in "length of haul", intermodal transport became more economical than door-to-door trucking. The study concluded with a tradeoff point somewhere between 125 and 150 miles, but in the real world, I doubt that any traffic professional would agree to a point of at least twice that figure, probably because almost all the intangibles in the calculation are viewed as slanted in favor of the trucker.

Over forty years ago, when I was studying nearby at Penn State, Penn Central closed its Altoona TOFC ramp, citing that there were very few destinations within the system that TOFC could serve at an advantage. What freight still seemed suited to TOFC was trucked to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh reportedly only solicited traffic for the gateways of Chicago and St. Louis, or beyond.

I don't doubt that even after adjusting for inflation, fuel concerns have narrowed the cost gap between the two modes somewhat, and the standardization and refinement of intermodal hardware, particularly with regard to reduction of cargo damage, is paying off handsomely.

Perhaps the biggest test will emerge if and when completion of the PANAMAX project exerts pressure to divert trans-Pacific traffic from Los Angeles to Atlantic Coast ports (reportedly, more likely to Hampton Roads and Savannah than New York/New Jersey due to harbor depth issues). If that should come to pass, BNSF and Union Pacific would then face a challenge of selling no-longer-used capacity.

Regardless of that outcome, I don't expect the railroads to give up the fight; they have solved their financial issues, learned a great deal about improvements in both physical plant and rolling stock, and can likely gain some cooperation and indirect help from the public sector where the growth of passenger transit and the freight roads' need for more capacity coincide.
Intermodal is profitable at distances of 500 miles or more for domestic freight. Anything below that and your either going to barely break even or your going to lose money. Intermodal is cheaper then hauling freight over the road unless the price of diesel drops to right around $1 a gallon and that is not counting the much cheaper maintenance costs of intermodal vs long haul OTR trucking. Or the fact a several trucking companies like JB Hunt have completely committed to the Intermodal with others (schneider, fedex, ups, swift, etc) running to catch up. So spending big money for sleeper cab tractors which intermodal focused trucking companies have been selling off and/or discontinuing there leases on aren't going to be challenging the rails in supremacy anytime soon when it comes to long distance freight transportation.

As far as Panamax goes that could effect internation containers coming into the US but it's not going to affect 53ft containers for domestic/NAFTA freight. Domestic/NAFTA freight is going to continue to grow for a long time to go as more freight gets taken off the road and put onto trains. So far it's mostly all been dry van freight. Reefer (refrigerated) freight hasn't taken off yet in intermodal like dry van freight has. It's still in it's infancy. When trains do transport reefer freight via intermodal it's done by piggy backing reefer trailers for the most part. Some domestic/NAFTA 53 ft reefer containers are moved but it's still a rather new phenomenon. Part of the problem is a reefer container is less spacious then a than a reefer trailer is. You lose two pallets with a reefer trailer due to the fact the refrigeration unit has to mounted inside the container so it fits into well cars just a like a regular container would. Still even losing two pallets the cost savings are there and it's the next big thing for intermodal. After that tank containers might come next.

As far as increasing freight and passenger capacity goes that is something the CEO of Amtrak is pushing for heavily and is not shy of being blunt about how the federal government is behind the curve ball in regard to all infrastructure in the US.



I'll give the guy credit for being extremely well rounded when it comes to transportation having worked on the freight rail side, having been in charge of highway infrastructure, being the CEO of Amtrak, having driven semi before and having a pilots license.
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:19 AM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,953,913 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
They're actually raising the Bayonne Bridge.
I heard talk of this - but then I also heard about building a new span next to the old one. I don't know what's happening I just know that the budget for it is huge.
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Old 02-25-2015, 03:37 PM
 
1,478 posts, read 2,001,520 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwa1984 View Post
Intermodal currently is 20-25% of freight rail business. That's not a small amount by any measure.

I'm not going to get into the entire 3D printing debate since the technology is still in it's infancy. I'm going by right now that moving freight across the country intermodal is where the future is at in most regards. You can't print food products after all and the west coast doesn't provide most of the food for the east coast either. Since a lot intermodal freight is grocery being food product and beverages this is a rather huge development that 3D printing won't be taking over. The same way it won't take over chemicals, copper wiring, mail, etc.

Your underestimating intermodal.
I saw some different stats by tonnage, but I could believe that the business of rail itself could be that high.

I do think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying regarding food. Rail is fine for relatively hardy produce. It works well in this regard because it is much cheaper than trucks. When I'm talking about food, I'm talking about processed things. The trend in food with major players is to ship the core ingredients to markets via rail, but to contract manufacture within a catchment area that can be served by truck. A mac and cheese manufacturer may be headquartered in Chicago for example. They don't need to manufacture there and ship via rail to get the least expensive form of supply chain. A less expensive alternative is to have a contract manufacturer in Atlanta, PA, Southern California, etc. Ship the raw via rail to these locations. Have them manufacture for you. Ship through their region. The brand owner will save money in transport from raw ingredient to store shelf this way. They also don't need to worry about what to do with an obsolete plant, labor issues, etc. Food companies are becoming brand portfolio owners. When you look around in a grocery store at all of the food, most of it is better positioned to be delivered by truck. Processed stuff? Regional contract manufacturing w trucks. Frozen/refrigerated? Trucks are better at this (although intermodal could get in on this at some point). Beverages? That's the contract manufacturing model at its most developed (think Coca Cola and all of their regional bottling partners). Not everyone food company is huge, but the big players who can leverage regional manufacturing dominate grocery shelf space.

I do think the interim future is promising for rail, but like just about any other technology out there, we don't have a clue how various things are going to manifest themselves in 30 years. That's the real test.
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Old 02-25-2015, 09:49 PM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
12,351 posts, read 7,503,405 times
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As a point of information, about five years ago, BNSF and CSX tied to set up the first "perishable unit train", between produce terminals in Washington state (Yakima, IIRC), and a cold storage facility near Albany, NY. It proved unreliable and the project was abandoned about a year ago. Ironically, many of the delays were traced to traffic congestion originating in the newly-developed North Dakota oilfields.
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Old 02-25-2015, 10:59 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
1,392 posts, read 1,275,413 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2nd trick op View Post
As a point of information, about five years ago, BNSF and CSX tied to set up the first "perishable unit train", between produce terminals in Washington state (Yakima, IIRC), and a cold storage facility near Albany, NY. It proved unreliable and the project was abandoned about a year ago. Ironically, many of the delays were traced to traffic congestion originating in the newly-developed North Dakota oilfields.
The oilfield traffic is extreme...but that's what happens when you can't pipe oil. The idea was bad from the start because you could just put the freight on reefer containers or regular reefer trailers and ship them by train that way across country. Although to be fair intermodal reefer service from the west coast to the east coast has been having problems.
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Old 02-25-2015, 11:33 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
1,392 posts, read 1,275,413 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
I saw some different stats by tonnage, but I could believe that the business of rail itself could be that high.

I do think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying regarding food. Rail is fine for relatively hardy produce. It works well in this regard because it is much cheaper than trucks. When I'm talking about food, I'm talking about processed things. The trend in food with major players is to ship the core ingredients to markets via rail, but to contract manufacture within a catchment area that can be served by truck. A mac and cheese manufacturer may be headquartered in Chicago for example. They don't need to manufacture there and ship via rail to get the least expensive form of supply chain. A less expensive alternative is to have a contract manufacturer in Atlanta, PA, Southern California, etc. Ship the raw via rail to these locations. Have them manufacture for you. Ship through their region. The brand owner will save money in transport from raw ingredient to store shelf this way. They also don't need to worry about what to do with an obsolete plant, labor issues, etc. Food companies are becoming brand portfolio owners.
Some companies like Pepsi and it's subsidiaries like Quaker for example have pretty much nothing but contractors working for them with very few to almost no actual Pepsi or Quaker employees. Kelloggs however to my knowledge doesn't do that as far as I'm aware. I could be wrong about that though but I doubt it with Kellogg's being union. So as far as Food companies becoming brand portfolio owners like Nike who literally contracts everything out to third parties is not accurate of the entire food industry.


Quote:
When you look around in a grocery store at all of the food, most of it is better positioned to be delivered by truck. Processed stuff? Regional contract manufacturing w trucks. Frozen/refrigerated? Trucks are better at this (although intermodal could get in on this at some point). Beverages? That's the contract manufacturing model at its most developed (think Coca Cola and all of their regional bottling partners). Not everyone food company is huge, but the big players who can leverage regional manufacturing dominate grocery shelf space.
For final delivery to the grocery store it is delivered by truck. However I know for a fact PepsiCo, ES3 (which is primarily run by C&S grocery who primarily deliver to Giant Grocery stores), Jacobson Company (deals in contracting service with groups like Pepsi and delivers groceries to different grocery and restaurant chains around the United States), Hershey Foods (refrigerated intermodal for a lot of this), Nabisco, Mott's, McCormick & Company, United Natural Foods, Inc, and more all utilize intermodal rail service. PepsiCo, ES3, Mott's, Kellogg's and Jacobson Company are extremely reliant on intermodal transportation. Intermodal transporation to be profitable has to go 500 miles or more and it can go quite a bit further than that sometimes all the way out to California from PA. Everything is not completely localized or regionalized for that matter regardless if we are talking big food corporations or small business food producers or finished or unfinished food product for that matter.

Quote:
I do think the interim future is promising for rail, but like just about any other technology out there, we don't have a clue how various things are going to manifest themselves in 30 years. That's the real test.
Rail has been around since before the civil war and it has survived a lot even some really really really stupid regulation and requirements. Rail is in an extremely good position and I'm doubtful that it's going to go to hell anytime soon even up to 30 years from now. Considering Warren Buffet spent 44 billion dollars completely acquiring the BNSF railroad I think I'm in good company with the belief that rail has a really bright future.

Last edited by cwa1984; 02-26-2015 at 12:05 AM..
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Old 02-26-2015, 01:49 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,953,913 times
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This part of the Port Inland Distribution Network that PANYNJ has been working on for the last +12 years -

$356 million expansion of Jersey City port facility approved | NJ.com
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Old 02-26-2015, 09:06 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,760,401 times
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The guy who wrote this article seems to think that it only makes sense to have a small number of deepwater ports dredged.
Dredging Jaxport? 9 Points You Should Consider | Metro Jacksonville
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