Do you actually think that people in the industry have forgotten the advantages of TOFC over COFC and that some magic day they will 'come to their senses' and embrace widespread circus-type loading of switched-out rakes of an 'iron highway' consist? Both 'the market' for equipment and the folks in the industry who pay for its operation have consistently rejected these drive-on, drive-off facilities in most lanes, even where local initiative provided suitable physical facilities such as ramps adjacent to suitable yard space. I have looked forward to adoption of a number of these continuous-roadway systems over the years, including some that lowered the deck under the road wheels to get the effect of 'fuel foiler' spine-car pockets while preserving RoRo operation. I even waited for drop-in or raise-up decking for well cars that would convert them to through-drive use. To date, we have Expressway in its lane, and it appears that no one else (yet) thinks that building more of the specialized cars, or operating them in existing intermodal consists or operations, makes enough financial sense.
I'm going to say that they've more than fogotten, the people today have not been really exposed to much TOFC at all. They simply don't give it serious consideration becuase they really don't know much about it.
But first I want to deal with the hitch reliability issue brought up by RME. Here's the report on the incident from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
As may be seen, the incident happened almost 20 years ago. A new type of hitch was in use, a type not approved by the AAR. The AAR requires a double lock on a hitch which would have prevented this incident. Since the incident the rail equipment used in the service has been replaced. Trailers no longer stradle two platforms. All in all, this incident happened almost 20 years ago on equipment no longer in use. It has no relevance to the current operation or to consideration given to use of such equipment in other operations.
The hitch failure is something simply thrown out to shut down further consideration of Expressway type operations.
As to the effects of the Staggers Act on TOFC/COFC, the effects were tremendous. And for the good. Staggers in 1950 would certainly have been better than Staggers in 1980. But Staggers should never have been necessary. The government never should have taken on the powers and role that it did. As well stated in the book "American Railroads: Decline and Renaisance in the Twentieth Century":
"A central theme of this book is that railroads, throughout their history, were so important to the US economy that politicians could not leave them alone, and when governments did intervene in transportation markets, they usually made a mess of things. Government regulation distorted consumer choices, found awkward and costly ways of subsidizing competing modes of transportation, taxed or regulated away profits needed for reinvestment and capacity expansion, and— while generally contributing to greater safety— typically fell far short of stimulating optimal safety performance for all transport modes."
Gallamore, Robert E.. American Railroads (Kindle Locations 470-474). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.
I worked in intermodal marketing and pricing both before and after Staggers. Things were a whole lot better in the "after time". Examples include, but are not limited to:
1) We were freed to establish though rates from the shipper's freight dock to the receiver's dock. This dock to dock pricing is critical for intermodal profitability. We could do dock to dock only on a very restricted basis prior to Staggers. With Staggers we could greatly expand our service area and compete, with TOFC, for much more freight.
2) The inane "Two Trailer Rate" went away. A main reason TOFC cars were built to carry two trailers was that the ossified regulators pretended to determine rail costs by the carload. They would not allow a railroad to charge less than the average (read "Includes Overhead Allocation") cost per carload. So, to get the pretend cost down to a truck competitive level we had to charge two trailers to a flatcar. Now few customers shipped in two trailer groups so middlemen developed to "mate" trailers from one terminal to another. These middlemen did little but took a fee. Please know that the two "mated" trailers did not have to physically move on the same car, or even actually go to the same destination. But the paperwork had to show a two trailer shipment. Dumber than All Hell.
As to RME's false claim that early TOFC trains didn't run very fast, he's wrong. Where the government rules allowed TOFC to work fast transit times were produced. Pennsylvania Railroad Truc-Trains did New Jersey-Chicago in 24 hours. And that was truck competitive. My favorites were Santa Fe 188 and the C&NW/UP Falcon Service. Both were Chicago to Los Angeles in 50 hours with TOFC. When allowed by the government, TOFC could be, and was, truck competitive.
I'll wrap this long winded post up with some thoughts on why the Expressway concept hasn't expanded. Basically, market research and development are glaring weak spots for our railroads. They simply don't do those things well. Some do it better than others, but generally it's a pronounced weak point. If someone shows up with shiploads of containers, or an oilfield, or a large grain terminal, the railroads can deal with it.
What they have great trouble with is a market consisting of numerous smaller shippers. The total volume may be there in aggregate but the railroads don't have the marketing chops needed to put things together.
Finally, guys such as RME will come out of the woodwork with reasons that any new development just won't work. Some of the objections will be real problems that need to be worked through. And some, such as the nonexistent hitch issue, will be red herrings used simply to knock a new idea down.
"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009.
I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.