Short Haul Intermodal - article in June Trains

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Posted by chutton01 on Thursday, May 03, 2018 4:54 PM

So, in this thread we have discussed multiple smaller TOFC ramps and indivdual  customer-loaded containers on wheels loaded from team tracks - sounds like concepts straight from Jeff Wilson's historical railroading books "Express, Mail & Merchandise Service" and "Piggyback & Container Traffic". Don't get me wrong, I think they were great concepts for their time, but somehow they didn't seem to transtition well to the post 1970 commercial landscape.   Maybe they can have another go at expanding Amtrak Express...

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Posted by greyhounds on Thursday, May 03, 2018 8:43 PM

ruderunner
Erik, my thinking is that drayage of the smaller containers could be done by the customers themselves. Class 6 trucks are cheap and could handle a smaller containers.

Oh, for sure!

The smaller trucks, think of two axles with no trailer, could handle a small container.  And the drayage could be done by the customers themselves.

But that wouldn't maximize the profitability of short haul intermodal, and would be a fatal error.  The relative importance of drayage costs increases with the shortness of the haul.  And dray costs are THE determining factor in the competitive success of shorter haul intermodal vis a vis over the road trucking.

If the railroad shifted the responsibility for the drayage to the customer it would be establishing a terminal to terminal rate.  Such a charge is automatically wrong in two ways.  It will simultaneously overcharge freight with a higher drayage cost while undercharging freight with a lower drayage cost.  Bad news either way.

The overcharge will divert freight to motor movement that could contribute to the railroad's bottom line.  The undercharge will leave money on the table that could contribute to the railroad's bottom line.  A terminal to terminal rate cannot be "Right".  And that's what you'd have if you left drayage up to the customer.  No way to be "Right" with the price.

A railroad can do the "Right" pricing in partnership with a trucker, on a door to door basis.  But it can never do "Right" pricing on a terminal to terminal basis.

 

 

"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.
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Posted by MP173 on Friday, May 04, 2018 6:34 AM

There is a simple, yet high investment solution.

Instead of draying the boxes to the railroad, build highly concentrated distribution center/logistics parks facilities at or very closely to the railroads.  These would be very similar to airports in concept in which industry would locate at these locations.  

The concept is already in place....Willow Springs UPS sort center is located on the BNSF.  

Drayage costs would be dramatically reduced and manufacturers/distributors could take advantage of state of the art facilities (highly automated).  The companies which choose not to invest in the facilities will be able to utilize the traditional truckload service.  The companies at the "logistics centers" will be able to realize transportation and chain logistics savings.

All it takes is real estate and $$$.

Same concept could be done in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Build consolidated loads of multiple producers for concentrated deliveries.  Sort of like a shuttle elevator.

Ed

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Posted by kgbw49 on Friday, May 04, 2018 7:31 AM

I believe BNSF also has the Alliance Logistics Park, the Joliet Logistics Park, and the Kansas City Logistics Lark In Operations. They might not have those exact names, but they are in operation. They are pretty much set up as described above.

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Friday, May 04, 2018 10:51 AM

Here's an update on a new short-haul intermodal service in the PNW that was first announced earlier this year, Portland-to-Seattle:

http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20180503/container-business-grows-at-portland-intermodal-facility

Google Port of Portland for some background on how it lost most of its container biz a while back, and how it's slowly getting some of it back.

 

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Posted by SAMUEL C WALKER on Monday, May 07, 2018 9:52 PM

Wrong equipment - period. Roadrailer container chassis. Forget lifting equipment. Forget circus style loading. Forget tare wight of heavy TTX equipment. A seaborne company invented the container and implemented container carriage on railroads. Maybe a seaborn company will order Roadrailer container chassis and charter its own trains for the linehaul efficiencies of rail without the terminal costs and time delays. TTX - no. Raodrailer - yes.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, May 08, 2018 12:37 AM

SAMUEL C WALKER
Roadrailer container chassis.

They were called RailRunners, and you will do well to study their design, history, and more importantly reasons for general nonacceptance in detail.

Why you would think the tare weight of an underframe plus ISO oceangoing container structure would be less than that of a van RoadRailer is a mystery to me.  Perhaps you've chosen not to read the lettering on the vehicles and do the corresponding math.

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Posted by greyhounds on Tuesday, May 08, 2018 1:57 AM

SAMUEL C WALKER
Wrong equipment - period. Roadrailer container chassis. Forget lifting equipment. Forget circus style loading. Forget tare wight of heavy TTX equipment. A seaborne company invented the container and implemented container carriage on railroads. Maybe a seaborn company will order Roadrailer container chassis and charter its own trains for the linehaul efficiencies of rail without the terminal costs and time delays. TTX - no. Raodrailer - yes.

Totally bogus dude.  And I worked in marketing for RoadRailer.

The intermodal container concept was developed by the New York Central Railroad in the early 1920s under the leadership of its president, Alfred Holland Smith.  He started with the railroad as a messenger boy at age 14 when his father died and earned his way up to presidency of the NYC.

That railroad, and other competing rail lines, were rapidly expanding container service until they were stopped in their tracks by the stupid fools of government regulation.  I've been though this before and I'll go over it again if required.  

Containerization was not developed by Malcom McLean of Sea Land, or any other "Seaborn" company.  McLean was the first to be allowed by the damn government to really use it, but the railroads beat him by 35 years or so to the concept.  

And!

In all these years no one, anywhere on Planet Earth, has figured out how to use RoadRailer chassis to move containers in an economically viable method.  You can design the hardware to do it, but making the benefits exceed the costs just hasn't worked.

"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.
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Posted by SAMUEL C WALKER on Wednesday, May 09, 2018 8:06 PM

One Roadrailer container chassis was built in 1980. Triple Crown Services never attempted to serve the market. Inherent problem to use of Roadrailer was it was against a national interstate system. It is very difficult to compete against an interstate highway system limited to a region and a single railroad company.

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Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, May 12, 2018 10:40 PM

SAMUEL C WALKER
One Roadrailer container chassis was built in 1980. Triple Crown Services never attempted to serve the market. Inherent problem to use of Roadrailer was it was against a national interstate system. It is very difficult to compete against an interstate highway system limited to a region and a single railroad company.

I might as well reply to this.

As I have stated, I worked for RoadRailer in marketing.  Before I did that I worked for the ICG in intermodal marketing.  The ICG attempted to establish the 1st commercial freight operation using RoadRailer equipment in 1980.  Only one person in the ICG Intermodal Department thought it would work.  Unfortunately, that person was the VP Intermodal and he forced it through.  It lasted one year.  And By God we tried.  We were calling every potential customer we could identify from state manufacturers directories.  We bought research data from Transearch. We did everything we could think of to make it work.  RoadRailers were just too limited in what they could be used for.  

Later, when I was at RoadRailer, we tried to sell that thing to anyone in the world.  I don't remember, but it was a lot, how many people from Canada, Europe, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, wherever, I took out to dinner at Gino's Steak House in the Chicago south suburbs.  Then I'd take them over to the NS Calumet Yard at 103rd and Stony Island in Chicago to show them how a RoadRailer train was put together.  (The people from India could be a problem, since they could be vegetarians.  But Gino's served them a very good vegy meal while I enjoyed my expense account steak.)

We had a container chassis design for them.  Nobody was interested.  Sometimes, what seems like a good idea just doesn't work.

The problem with RoadRailers was not, as was stated, that they competed with a national Interstate network.  The fatal problem was that they were positioned, by RoadRailer itself, to be incompatible with the existing rail business.  The railroads were encouraged (required?) to operate RoadRailer only trains.  And this made their use uneconomic.  

There were other problems with containers on RoadRailers.  First, containers come in various lengths.  If you've got a 20 foot container to move and a 40 foot chassis what do you do?  No, you can't just put it in the middle the engineers told me, it makes it unstable on the rail.  Then there is the weight problem.  Making a highway trailer in to a railcar, a la RoadRailer, ads weight.  This decreases the payload capacity on the highway because of highway gross weight limits.

A chassis/container combination also ads weight.  Making the chassis in to a RoadRailer would compound the highway weight issue.

Nobody in the world could figure out a way to make it work.  And we sure tried.

There are a couple of other folks on this forum who have direct RoadRailer experience.  If they want to chime in, I'll welcome their thoughts. 

 

 

"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.
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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Sunday, May 13, 2018 9:06 AM

My boss looked into buying some of the old NS roadrailers a few years back.  They weighed in over 1 ton heavier than our heaviest trailer we had in the fleet and those are 48 foot reefers.  We are talking about a 53 foot trailer that has a tare weight of almost 18K lbs ready to roll down the road.  Yes we could have reduced that somewhat by removing the nose extension and some other modifications but they are way to freaking heavy.  We would have lost 2 tons of cargo per load on them.  That is way to much weight to give up in cargo.  When you have a hard weight limit your required to meet and if you can not haul as much as everyone else your not going to get that contract.  They are great for hauling auto parts that are lightweight.  But for normal loads of things like paper or other heavy weight items forget it.  

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Posted by SAMUEL C WALKER on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 6:06 PM

So, the problem bascially was weight for the Roadrailer dry van. Engineer the weight out and the intermodal vehicle of Roadrailer might be more effecive to get and keep traffic of all sorts. Composite materials? As for a Raodrailer chassis beyond the prototype built in 1980, the solution would be to engineer out weight and be able to adjust length. It sounds like a bright mechanical engineering talent at Wabash National could figure it out. Many thanks for your insights.

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 6:26 PM

SAMUEL C WALKER
So, the problem bascially was weight for the Roadrailer dry van. Engineer the weight out and the intermodal vehicle of Roadrailer might be more effecive to get and keep traffic of all sorts. Composite materials? As for a Raodrailer chassis beyond the prototype built in 1980, the solution would be to engineer out weight and be able to adjust length. It sounds like a bright mechanical engineering talent at Wabash National could figure it out. Many thanks for your insights.

However, in railroad operations weight has a additional function - keeping the vehicle on the rails.  Many aspects of railroading rely on gravity to make things work.  So in addition to the buff and draft loads that a 'Roadrailer' must be able to handle it must be heavy enough to stay on the rails.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 7:05 PM

SAMUEL C WALKER
So, the problem basically was weight for the Roadrailer dry van. Engineer the weight out and the intermodal vehicle of Roadrailer might be more effective to get and keep traffic of all sorts.

You cannot cavalierly compare the two as if comparable, or ignore the practical effect of whatever tare weight is involved above the underframe in the intermodal version.  Have you not studied anything about RailRunners?  Even their Web site goes into detail on these issues (and some of the special considerations, as in Africa, that made their use cost-effective for a time).

As Balt indicated, any intermodal underframe, no matter how skeletal, has to have adequate tare weight to resist buff and draft, and more importantly to resist stringlining when in consist (and that includes "bimode" consists where all the RoadRailer traffic is relegated to the rear of a given train in a lane).  This cuts into the permissible tare weight for the intermodal container or platform and its associated dunnage and internal securement, even as it is recognized that establishing a practical fleet of ISO series ex-marine containers for "railborne" RailRunner service inherently requires accepting the tare weight of oceangoing containers (which is substantial compared to dry-van structure) or incurring substantial cost to reduce that tare weight (which both makes the containers unfit for deck service and likely weakens them in some planes, notably rack).

I believe there have been several attempts at extremely-low-tare-weight 'container' systems (where the external vehicle is made as light as possible, essentially just a liftable structure enclosing pallets that do the actual "carrying" and involve a substantial portion of the protective packaging).  The principal issue with these is that, to become 'competitive' with ISO-container intermodal, the capitalization and effective ongoing 'take rate' have to be substantial, and not just in limited lanes -- and they must produce a profit or service advantage that more than justifies the capital and risk, etc. put into them.  I have never observed this in the time I have been watching the intermodal industry, even as some European swap-body companies have tried to float the idea.

Composite materials?

Study their cost and mechanical properties and come back when you can propose specific engineered examples with some numbers.  You don't know enough yet to comment knowledgeably on this.

As for a Roadrailer [intermodal] chassis beyond the prototype built in 1980, the solution would be to engineer out weight and be able to adjust length.

I think you are implicitly insulting a number of people at Wabash National with a comment like this, although I doubt they are reading this thread.  Did you think an intermodal RoadRailer would intentionally be built as a heavy 'dog' or without reference to the physical requirements?

More alarmingly, what would lead you to believe that making any underframe 'adjustable-length' would not impose a potentially-crippling weight penalty -- to say nothing of the safety implications should the variable-length mechanism become unlocked in transit?  I will grant you that it is possible to do some limited adjustment of corner-casting transoms but the issue you're raising is accommodation of radically longer containers, with assumptions about weight distribution and dunnage that become far more serious for low-tare-weight solutions, as well as accommodation issues for containers that overhang their functional corner castings.

It sounds like a bright mechanical engineering talent at Wabash National could figure it out.

I think you'd be right, but you overlook the other 'shoe' -- that the bright mechanical-engineering talent at Wabash National did figure it out, and in between the laws of physics and the realities of finance determined that it could not be made to pay.

(As a separate note: I believe there are now several discussions of the RoadRailer development that explain exactly where the increased tare weight is necessary, and what the structures are.  One often-ignored point about dry vans in intermodal service is that most of them are not designed to be lifted, and in fact are likely to be damaged if anything other than slow, very steady, and knowledgeable control is used the entire time the lifting apparatus is near the trailer in question.  Even providing the necessary structure to permit a loaded trailer to be forked somewhere other than under the bogie and kingpin, for example by inflatable pads equipped with load cells, involves some additional tare weight (which, as Shadow's owner indicates, translates directly into lost revenue every run).  So far, the 'where's my big savings?' has predominated.

Now, I think there is bright mechanical-engineering talent out there now that is looking into just this, the practical development of a dry van that can be efficiently sideloaded quickly and positively on and off skeleton intermodal equipment.  Note that as soon as you have this the use of Fuel-Foiler style underframes (where the trailer bogie wheels ride in 'kangaroo' pockets and the frontal resistance can be reduced) becomes practical, whereas it was not so before.  My own opinion is that perimeter-frame well-style cars are more practical than 'spine' cars, in part because rapid parallel loading and unloading is possible with them.  But I see relatively little upside for the idea of RoadRailing container underframes used for any practical lanes of 'container' service.

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