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Double Stack vs. TOFC

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Double Stack vs. TOFC
Posted by greyhounds on Friday, August 27, 2021 10:34 PM
There’s no question about it.  On the rail double stack is much more efficient.  The weight per load is less than TOFC.  This results in less fuel used, more revenue loads in a given train length, less wear and tear on track, etc.
 
In a terminal I see a trade off.  They can get more doubled stacked containers on a given track than they can trailers.  But things get more complex with containers as they must match up a chassis with a container instead of just setting a trailer on the ground.  There are more moves in the terminals to handle containers than trailers.  More moves = more costs.
 
On the highway, again, there’s no question about it.  But it’s the other way around.  The trailer is much more efficient.  A tractor-trailer combination will weigh less than a tractor-container-chassis combination.  Any increase in tare weight must be made up for in a loss of payload weight.  Not good.
We’re talking intermodal here, so rail costs, terminal costs, and highway costs all come in to play.
 
I’d opine that there needs to be more consideration of the total door to door costs.  Each component will factor in differently depending on the distance moved, the density of the commodity, and the capacity of the rail line.   I judge that’s there’s too much emphasis on the rail cost component to the detriment of the total cost component.
 
Any 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 SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, August 28, 2021 8:05 AM
 

 

When it comes to containers there needs to be terminal segregation and grounded operation. ISO and Domestic need seperate pads inside terminals. Along with sorting by priority to eliminate multiple flips of containers. This is where visibility into cargo movement needs to happen. Not for the equipment, but the actual cargo inside the container. With automation, grounded operation, and much better staging of boxes that will help reduce cost of COFC terminal operation.

While there are trade offs, COFC has more pros than TOFC. Trailers eat up scarce space and this will be key consideration in IM service options. TOFC is also highly cyclical compared to COFC. Indicators such as this are at the forefront vs. total cost component, and will likely remain that way..

My train of thought.. Can we build a lighter tare Container/Chassis combo? A 53' combo comes in at approx. 17,500 lbs. Can we get that down to 14,000 lbs.?, 13,500 lbs.? With a lighter daycab for draying you can match or slightly exceed the trailer lading limit.

 
 
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 28, 2021 9:26 AM

SD60MAC9500
My train of thought.. Can we build a lighter tare Container/Chassis combo?

We could, and many have tried.  In fact even current underframes aren't really optimized for OTR operation in the sense their operation would be comparable to typical van-trailer handling.

The first difficulty is that much containerization is standardized around the expectation of USO marine container standards.  Special lighter containers that are domestic service top-row-only do exist, but I understand it's a pain to handle them even when minimal dwell and no ground time become essential.

The second difficulty comes when underframes have to be operated or shuttled light.  Make them too light and all sorts of problems start, including those from torsional shock.  Make them 'domestic service only' and whole new levels of logistics processing and PRR scheduling are likely to become necessary to 'prevent incidents'.  And it only takes one incident to wipe out months of the 'big savings' from your two-ton tare reduction...

With a lighter daycab for draying you can match or slightly exceed the trailer lading limit.

It's going to be difficult to approximate stressed-member construction in dry-van structure with any composite system of a container built for top lift sitting on a chassis that only contacts it via gravity and four little locks.  You'll need a far lighter tractor, which I think will dramatically limit the number of tractor O/Os you're likely to contract with -- I suspect the things would have to be restricted range aside from their having no sleeper for mandatory rest, and the situation would make battery 'carbon reduction' even more laughably non-cost-effective except in a politicized long-term future.  Consider simply what is needed to make a dry van that can be lifted vertically and swung using a typical spreader to get a handle on the tare weight and other-considerations envelope.

I think you'd be much better advised to look at 'yard chassis' optimized in the same kinds of way yard tractors are.  These could easily be made suitable for internal transfer to ground storage or facilitated parallel trans loading to road chassis, or limited transfer drayage to satellite sites, leaving the principal (and usually highly expensive and capital-intensive) rail intermodal exchange quick, direct, and amenable to both accurate and achievable 'scheduling'.

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Posted by diningcar on Saturday, August 28, 2021 10:50 AM

Three previous responses here:

Thanks for the diversity of analysis. No nonsence, just analysis. !!!

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, August 28, 2021 10:58 AM
 

Overmod

 

 
SD60MAC9500
My train of thought.. Can we build a lighter tare Container/Chassis combo?

 

We could, and many have tried.  In fact even current underframes aren't really optimized for OTR operation in the sense their operation would be comparable to typical van-trailer handling.

 

The first difficulty is that much containerization is standardized around the expectation of USO marine container standards.  Special lighter containers that are domestic service top-row-only do exist, but I understand it's a pain to handle them even when minimal dwell and no ground time become essential.

The second difficulty comes when underframes have to be operated or shuttled light.  Make them too light and all sorts of problems start, including those from torsional shock.  Make them 'domestic service only' and whole new levels of logistics processing and PRR scheduling are likely to become necessary to 'prevent incidents'.  And it only takes one incident to wipe out months of the 'big savings' from your two-ton tare reduction...

 

 
With a lighter daycab for draying you can match or slightly exceed the trailer lading limit.

 

It's going to be difficult to approximate stressed-member construction in dry-van structure with any composite system of a container built for top lift sitting on a chassis that only contacts it via gravity and four little locks.  You'll need a far lighter tractor, which I think will dramatically limit the number of tractor O/Os you're likely to contract with -- I suspect the things would have to be restricted range aside from their having no sleeper for mandatory rest, and the situation would make battery 'carbon reduction' even more laughably non-cost-effective except in a politicized long-term future.  Consider simply what is needed to make a dry van that can be lifted vertically and swung using a typical spreader to get a handle on the tare weight and other-considerations envelope.

 

I think you'd be much better advised to look at 'yard chassis' optimized in the same kinds of way yard tractors are.  These could easily be made suitable for internal transfer to ground storage or facilitated parallel trans loading to road chassis, or limited transfer drayage to satellite sites, leaving the principal (and usually highly expensive and capital-intensive) rail intermodal exchange quick, direct, and amenable to both accurate and achievable 'scheduling'.

 

Yes stress points with a lighter tare container are an issue. As well is placement in stacking. Containers currently are constructed of #14 gauge steel. .075" or approx 5/64 in size. I imagine most of the stress is in the cross section from IBC (Inter Box Connecter) post to IBC post. Varying gauges of lighter steel #16 or #18 may be investigated being used for the floor and ceiling of the box keeping the 14 gauge for cross section between both IBC pockets.

Freight Car N Scale: YRC Freight 53' Domestic Container N Scale

 
 
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 28, 2021 11:08 AM

SD60MAC9500
Varying gauges of lighter steel #16 or #18 may be investigated being used for the floor and ceiling of the box keeping the 14 gauge for cross section corner post to corner post.

As a little bit of devil's-advocacy: Somewhat more racking of a domestic container might be tolerable, even to the extent it would warp a light underframe somewhat in transit and arrive with jammed doors.  Means of determining and jacking 'low corners' to get the doors open (or to get them latched and locked fully on loading) could be relatively easily provided for the use of those needing to strip or stuff such a container, especially if it is 'grounded' for temporary storage as I see so many used at holiday times.

With the practical advent of low-cost and electrically-efficient disk and fiber welding, I think it will become at least possible to assure high-integrity full-pen welding when fabricating or repairing lightweight containers.  That might both reduce required tare weight and nominal required factor of safety in parts of the design or spec while ensuring a 'quality' and safe article.

I continue to believe, though, that the primary key as far as 'railroad' involvement remains minimal or wholly-predictable/schedulable dwell, which is a very different priority than container movement in and out of the facility as a whole.

If you want a quick and easy TOFC expedient, build four-wheel-steer autonomous-capable yard tractors and provide aprons the length of a depressed track.  Any number of tractors can bind on from either side, move the trailers off, and stage them for parallel inspection and OTR tractor attachment without holding up subsequent (and nearly as easy) loading and securement of trailers to be loaded (prestaged for example on the 'other side' from the gang unloading) 

(Cars might be kangaroo-pocketed with ramps and some decking to reduce wind resistance a la ATSF if desired; the binding-on is a bit more complex and some facilitated bogie lifting might be necessary at times, but no special trailer 'hardening' eould really be necessary...)

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Posted by 7j43k on Saturday, August 28, 2021 2:40 PM

Overmod
 

I think you'd be much better advised to look at 'yard chassis' optimized in the same kinds of way yard tractors are.  These could easily be made suitable for internal transfer to ground storage or facilitated parallel trans loading to road chassis, or limited transfer drayage to satellite sites, leaving the principal (and usually highly expensive and capital-intensive) rail intermodal exchange quick, direct, and amenable to both accurate and achievable 'scheduling'.

 

I wonder how this would work.  You would have to keep track of two types of chassis.  And make SURE the lightweights don't go on public streets.  In Oakland, and I think most ports, that means these could only be used in one yard.  You could not carry a load from the rail terminal to the ship terminal.

Too, don't forget that not all containers are ship-rail.  There are many that leave the terminal yard and are delivered locally.  For overseas, in Oakland, I expect it's the majority of containers.

 

Also, you're saving close to nothing by using a "yard chassis" in the yard.  There's NO weight limit, except for that specified by the owning entity.  Certainly not the State. 

 

"Lightweighting" the standard chassis would be the way to go.  But WHO gets the benefit?  Chassis are commonly done as free-floating, I think.  So, while the OWNER of the chassis gets the expense, how does the OWNER reap the profits?

IF there is a single owner shipping terminal, THAT owner can go all lightweight.  But these days it's awfully rare to see a container ship loaded only with the owner's containers.  So then the leasing companies get a weight break.  Or that terminal gets to keep track of two kinds of chassis.

Still, lightweighting of chassis seems like the best way to go.  

 

Anyway, it's been noted about the shipping business that companies don't like spending THEIR money so that OTHER companies can save money.  Roller bearing trucks come to mind.

 

Ed

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, August 28, 2021 3:05 PM

Worked in conjunction with the B&O's TOFC Terminal in Baltimore at Wicomoco - before the age of containerization.  Rail cars were loaded and unloaded by the circus method.  Yard tractors with hydraulic 5th wheels did all the loading and unloading.  It was not that infrequent of a occurrence that a yard tractor didn't have sufficient hydraulic power to be able to lift some of the overloaded trailers that were being shipped over rail - thus missing Weigh Stations.  Subsequently the City of Baltimore invested in mobile weighing equipment and would set up random check points to catch the overloaders.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 28, 2021 5:03 PM

Ed as usual has intelligent things to say.

You would have to keep track of two types of chassis.  And make SURE the lightweights don't go on public streets.  In Oakland, and I think most ports, that means these could only be used in one yard.  You could not carry a load from the rail terminal to the ship terminal.

I was actually thinking the yard chassis would be heavier than 'OTR' (by at least the proportion that ship containers can be overloaded if not intended to be intermodally roaded) and might be fitted with some of the otherwise-somewhat-wacky self-loading and -unloading gear to distribute landing and loading areas to reduce shuttling expensive mobile vertical-lift machines like Mi-Jacks.

Too, don't forget that not all containers are ship-rail.  There are many that leave the terminal yard and are delivered locally.  For overseas, in Oakland, I expect it's the majority of containers.

I'm discussing something a little more precisely angled: a system that would minimize both loading and unloading dwell of various kinds of railroad equipment kept in either blocks or complete trains.  This would be true regardless of whether containers of different loads or restrictions were in use.

To the extent this condition requires a fixed schedulable pool of short-turn dedicated underframes, which can be heavy within reasonable limits as they are not expected to run up long miles at OTR speed, I continue to think that a high closed utilization of a reserved pool of 'rubber-tired' chassis makes the best sense if it is impractical for any reason to assure 'timing' of either arriving or departing OTR underframes with full, not just high, assurance.

Also, you're saving close to nothing by using a "yard chassis" in the yard.  There's NO weight limit, except for that specified by the owning entity.  Certainly not the State.

I don't think he was discussing lightweight as being yard chassis, just as 'yard tractor' need not imply small and light only because of presumably restricted speed and range and a desire for cheapest capital cost per unit.

"Lightweighting" the standard chassis would be the way to go.  But WHO gets the benefit?  Chassis are commonly done as free-floating, I think.  So, while the OWNER of the chassis gets the expense, how does the OWNER reap the profits?

Part of a long-standing issue is that when chassis, pooled or otherwise, become a 'commodity' there will likely be a race to the bottom in quality that may only be addressed with some kind of mandatory regulation (which I think most of us would rather avoid if possible).   Optimized lightweight construction would be for relatively long road moves, which would (like multiple-axle high speed sleeper-equipped tractors) be pool provided by those benefiting from OTR intermodal -- the underframes would be 'in and out' ASAP, and spend minimum dwell in other intermodal roles.

You don't need an engineering degree to see that lightweight FuelFoiler style underframes won't do well if pressed into service lugging overloaded ship containers over potholed streets, or being Shanghai'd into being part of an impromptu rubber-tired warehousing system at a shipper's uncompensated convenience.  Those are better served with the regular pool units that have lower standards for lighting, tires and brake inspection and have probably been slammed repeatedly on end for storage... etc.

Incidentally when I mention level 4 autonomous-capable yard tractor designs that fit entirely under a trailer nose, I don't mean they won't have seats and controls for manned operation (not just hostling).

IF there is a single owner shipping terminal, THAT owner can go all lightweight.

Or work with other facilities to standardize the pool of yard container chassis... or finance an OTR chassis subsidiary perhaps along the lines of TTX.  I suspect there is a niche for road-underframe ownership for the rail-intermodal last-mile market in terms of non-break-bulk moves to natural 'centers' like Rotterdam.  That is not a sort of market served by the typical dog's-breakfast chassis I am familiar with from the New York port operations years ago.

... these days it's awfully rare to see a container ship loaded only with the owner's containers.  So then the leasing companies get a weight break.  Or that terminal gets to keep track of two kinds of chassis.

I think it's "less unavoidable" to have strict-scheduling for two classes of underframe than one even more rigorous system for a one-claas system that requires every unit to be high-speed and safety compliant 100% of the time.  I suspect truckers may be nodding in recognition here.

...it's been noted about the shipping business that companies don't like spending THEIR money so that OTHER companies can save money.  Roller bearing trucks come to mind.

One thing I remember about roller-bearing trucks is that it wasn't the Timken FUD low-rolling-resistance marketing that sold the industry on M-942 AP bearings -- it was the promise of maintenance-free high-load bearings that could reliably outlast a wheel's whole wear life.  I think that lesson applies, in spades albeit in a moral sense, to the utilization of underframes as a productive asset for PSR railroads primarily concerned with their own railborne operations and equipment turn.

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Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, August 28, 2021 5:45 PM

7j43k
"Lightweighting" the standard chassis would be the way to go.  But WHO gets the benefit?  Chassis are commonly done as free-floating, I think.  So, while the OWNER of the chassis gets the expense, how does the OWNER reap the profits?

JB Hunt chassis and containers can only be used with each other.  They’re intentionally designed that way.  A JB Hunt container won’t work on a “Standard” chassis and a JB Hunt chassis can’t be used with a “Standard” container.
 
I know when I worked for Navistar, we offered tractors with aluminum frames.  Put that with aluminum single tire wheels and smaller fuel tanks.  Do the same with the chassis. 
 
I wonder just how light you could get and what it would cost.  It must be thought of as a through system, door to door.  Not just an optimization for each segment of the movement.
 
I’m thinking domestic shipments here.  Things that weigh out before they cube out.  Stuff such as produce (it’s mostly water) from western states and Mexico to eastern population centers.  There’s a whole lot of that freight moving long distances by truck.
 
And seriousness aside.  You could probably save 100 pounds by using female drivers.
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 28, 2021 5:57 PM

greyhounds
  I wonder just how light you could get and what it would cost.  It must be thought of as a through system, door to door.  Not just an optimization for each segment of the movement.

You can easily get too light for your own good.  Was it the T2000s that started to get damage from potholes and even missed-shift chassis torquing by having their frames "lightened" (perhaps by some of Dieter's overzealous little bungineers?)

An underframe built too light for predictable abuse in service may easily prove false economy, and while I think there is ample scope for 'going more lightweight' in pure-intermodal design it would be risky at best to go about it piecemeal, or with the wrong design priority.

I have been a strong proponent of Alcoa wheels on OTR vehicles for many years.  Consider the reasons so few container underframes have them.

I thoroughly agree that a specialized lightweight system could be 'made to fly' by a single shipper (or a group designing donestic container intermodal to common PRIIA-like open standards).  I see only Flexi-Van-like disaster for one company intentionally embracing proprietary standards -- no matter how high-traffic they are in particular lanes, and no matter how advantageous their proprietary features.

If I were running a PSR railroad I'd have a special demurrage schedule for those 'proprietary' Hunt containers for any time the correct number of underframes failed to be present right at the time I unloaded Hunt containers from one of my trains.

I would argue, though, that the rail portion of a trip is not something that optimized for lower tare in a walled-garden 'end to end' model -- an awful lot of experience says that it's better to go the other way and build equipment with the greatest ad hoc loading flexibility.  Viz. the great number of articulated well sets built to ISO 40' length now carrying 53s upper-deck-only... (and you can't road a 53 on a 40 chassis when it gets where it's going...)

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Posted by 7j43k on Saturday, August 28, 2021 7:41 PM

greyhounds

 
And seriousness aside.  You could probably save 100 pounds by using female drivers.
 

Not SOME of the ones I've seen.

I think you want retired jockeys.

 

Oddly, I knew one.  That is:  a jockey who decided to do long-haul driving.  He did very well, I believe.  By the time I met him, he was fully retired, but he showed my pictures of his trucks and talked my ear off.

Which was actually a very pleasant loss (I stuck it back on later).

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 28, 2021 7:44 PM

7j43k
Which was actually a very pleasant loss (I stuck it back on later).

But did you use diluted yellow glue?

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Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, August 28, 2021 8:36 PM

Overmod
If I were running a PSR railroad I'd have a special demurrage schedule for those 'proprietary' Hunt containers for any time the correct number of underframes failed to be present right at the time I unloaded Hunt containers from one of my trains.

Oh, I don’t know.  I doubt that it is a good business plan to try to shove the people in Lowell, Arkansas around.  Work as a partner, not as a boss. 
Arkansas is just amazing as an entrepreneurial incubator.  Besides JB Hunt we’ve got Tyson, Walmart, and the LTL operations of FedEx (Well most of it) that started in Arkansas and grew.
 
 
 
Overmod
You can easily get too light for your own good.  Was it the T2000s that started to get damage from potholes and even missed-shift chassis torquing by having their frames "lightened" (perhaps by some of Dieter's overzealous little bungineers?) An underframe built too light for predictable abuse in service may easily prove false economy, and while I think there is ample scope for 'going more lightweight' in pure-intermodal design it would be risky at best to go about it piecemeal, or with the wrong design priority.
Well, there’s certainly no sense in developing equipment that can’t stand up to the job.  But getting around 4,000 pounds out of the tractor-chassis-container combination would be of great benefit for a whole lot of domestic loads.
Overmod
Consider the reasons so few container underframes have them.
 
I don't know the reasons.  I'll guess it's that most of the imports in 40 foot containers cube out before they hit the weight limits.  So there's no reason to spend the money to lighten the chassis.
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 28, 2021 9:44 PM

The issue here is not trying to 'shove JB Hunt around' -- it specifically relates to the expressed concern of the thread that shippers may not be arranging to pick up arriving containers 'timely', and choosing to build containers incompatible with standard underframes would make it artificially more difficult to use anything other than top lift to ground or move them.

As the incompatibility was designed in for Hunt's sole benefit, they should bear a fair share of the potential consequence of that choice.

Of course a proper railroad -- PSR or otherwise -- would work to ensure the situation doesn't arise, and a well-run company like Hunt would likely not exploit the situation.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Saturday, August 28, 2021 11:40 PM

4k pounds try more on the order of around 7 thousand pounds needs to be removed from the average container chassis combination when you compare them to either a standard high cube 53 trailer or reefer.  The lightest dry 53 trailer out there is under 12k pounds ready to go down the road.  The lightest tare I've ever seen on a 53 foot container is in the 11k range.  Then throw in the chassis with another 7k range.  I see the bill of lading difference on the shipments we send out on containers versus trailers all the freaking time.  Containers around here are always 3 tons less or 6 boxes less than a dry van.  For a reefer trailer it's worse.  The newest generation of utility trailers weight in at the same as the freaking container does without the chassis at all and that includes the reefer unit installed with a 50 gallon tank.  So unless you're hauling cube out goods you're screwed if you want to rub containers as your primary source of box.

 

My bosses latest order of dry van's has gotten us back to a possible max load of 47000 pounds we have cut off over 1k pounds of weight in the trailers alone with newer materials introduced in the last couple years.  

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Sunday, August 29, 2021 8:37 AM
 

Overmod

 

If I were running a PSR railroad I'd have a special demurrage schedule for those 'proprietary' Hunt containers for any time the correct number of underframes failed to be present right at the time I unloaded Hunt containers from one of my trains.

 

 
As of today JBH has a fleet over 100K+ 53's. For such a large asset provider you will have your own chassis fleet as it's more efficient. This gives you priority to flip boxes, eliminates using a chassis pool paying associated fees, and rental. So that would be a negative as Greyhounds stated. You don't penalize an ABC (Asset Based Carrier) for bringing its own equipment for its own boxes. Both NS and UP have chassis fleets for EMP, and UMAX 53's. I opine expanded railroad chassis pools would be of great benefit.  
 
 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by oltmannd on Sunday, August 29, 2021 9:35 AM

greyhounds
There’s no question about it.  On the rail double stack is much more efficient.  The weight per load is less than TOFC.  This results in less fuel used, more revenue loads in a given train length, less wear and tear on track, etc.
 
In a terminal I see a trade off.  They can get more doubled stacked containers on a given track than they can trailers.  But things get more complex with containers as they must match up a chassis with a container instead of just setting a trailer on the ground.  There are more moves in the terminals to handle containers than trailers.  More moves = more costs.
 
On the highway, again, there’s no question about it.  But it’s the other way around.  The trailer is much more efficient.  A tractor-trailer combination will weigh less than a tractor-container-chassis combination.  Any increase in tare weight must be made up for in a loss of payload weight.  Not good.
We’re talking intermodal here, so rail costs, terminal costs, and highway costs all come in to play.
 
I’d opine that there needs to be more consideration of the total door to door costs.  Each component will factor in differently depending on the distance moved, the density of the commodity, and the capacity of the rail line.   I judge that’s there’s too much emphasis on the rail cost component to the detriment of the total cost component.
 
Any thoughts?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I'm with you on this one.  There is still a lot of really high value, high revenue stuff going TOFC.  

What's funny about this, to me, is the double stacking came from the outside and was "forced" on the RRs.  Then the RRs woke up and saw the reduced costs and decided EVERYTHING had to be a stack.  I was in intermodal at Conrail when they tried to get UPS to try stacks.  Notice that nearly all UPS today remains TOFC.

I occasionally watch the Horseshoe Curve rail-cam and see where were the Conrail "mail" trains go by.  (Premium intermodal).  Still a ton of TOFC.  LTL guys, reefers, UPS, Fedex.  

I don't really understand why NS walked away from trying to make "Premium" Crescent Corridor.  Tons of truck load to convert.  (If they could get even 20% of the obnoxious Fedex guys off I-81, I'd be pleased)

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by greyhounds on Sunday, August 29, 2021 11:28 AM

Shadow the Cats owner
The lightest dry 53 trailer out there is under 12k pounds ready to go down the road.  The lightest tare I've ever seen on a 53 foot container is in the 11k range.  Then throw in the chassis with another 7k range.  I see the bill of lading difference on the shipments we send out on containers versus trailers all the freaking time.  Containers around here are always 3 tons less or 6 boxes less than a dry van.  For a reefer trailer it's worse.  The newest generation of utility trailers weight in at the same as the freaking container does without the chassis at all and that includes the reefer unit installed with a 50 gallon tank.

So, who manufactures such a light dry van?  I'd like to read about it.

C R England says they can get a 43,500 pound load in one of their rail reefer containers.  So if we get 3,500 pounds out of the tractor-container-chassis combination we'll be right there with you at 47,000 pound loads.

You've left the tractor weight out of your numbers.  Intermodal can generally use lighter tractors than over the road trucking.  

 

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Sunday, August 29, 2021 1:27 PM

Hyundai has a 53 footer down to 11800 pounds.  Wabash has their plateside down to 10900. With this year's model.  Our tractors fully ready for the road weigh in at 17k. Yes we have gotten serious on the weight cutting.  A daycab is around 15k.  

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Posted by MP173 on Sunday, August 29, 2021 2:12 PM

Oltman:

I watch the Berea, Oh railcam...benefits of both NS and CSX mainlines with a tower in the view.

Around 1pm the UPS eastbound parade begins...Q8,Q10, 20E, and 24M and often 21Z heading west.  Most of the UPS units are still trailers.  Containers have made inroads, but still quite a few 28 ft. pups.  In fact 24M just passed (Chicago - Baltimore) with 15 trailers and 28 containers, more containers than normal, but perhaps that has to do with weekend scheduling.

What has really increased of late are the number of FedX Ground trailers.  The westbound 21G will often contain up to 40 FedX trailers.

Cats...interesting regarding Hyundai trailer weight reduction.  The problem is getting in line for their production.  A customer of mine inquired about a 1000 trailer order for 2022...they were allocated 80.  Another customer is seeking 1500 trailers for next year, has yet to place an order due to unavailability. Yet another customer wants 600 Hyundai trailers next year for his trucking fleet and cannot even get a committment....and he owns a Hyundai dealership!   The industry is probably stuck with the heavier older trailers for a couple of buying cycles until demand and supply reach equilibrium.

Take a look around the rail container storage yards on 47th Street in Chicago.  No inventory on the grounds.  All hands are on deck.  Indications are that any innovations will be shoved down the road until resources are available for R&D, prototypes, and distribution channels.

 

Ed

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Sunday, August 29, 2021 8:19 PM

Yep everyone wants those trailers for the weight savings.  It's a freaking game changer for this industry allowing us to get back to preemission cargo weights and a huge boost in cargo movement capability.  Dart transit with their newest generation of trucks and trailers can move in 9 trailers what 5 years ago took 10 units to move.  That give you an idea of how much weight we as an industry have found to remove.  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, August 30, 2021 2:11 AM

Maybe this is a bit off-topic, has anyone ever tried to design a loading system that could pick up standard strength trailers without damaging them?

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Monday, August 30, 2021 12:13 PM

SD70Dude

Maybe this is a bit off-topic, has anyone ever tried to design a loading system that could pick up standard strength trailers without damaging them?

 

You can do that with current lift equipment. They need specialized "shoes" to be equipped on the spreaders arms. To lift trailers that lack lifting pads and reinforced side rails for IM service.

Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by greyhounds on Monday, August 30, 2021 12:22 PM

Shadow the Cats owner
Yep everyone wants those trailers for the weight savings.  It's a freaking game changer for this industry allowing us to get back to preemission cargo weights and a huge boost in cargo movement capability.  Dart transit with their newest generation of trucks and trailers can move in 9 trailers what 5 years ago took 10 units to move.  That give you an idea of how much weight we as an industry have found to remove.  

Well, that’s good to hear.  Making things more efficient is good for our people and our economy.

I know some Luddites will go nuts because you’re using fewer drivers.  But then, they’re Luddites.

The railroads are going to have to respond.  But keep in mind that most freight fills up the cubic capacity of the trailer before it hits the weight limit.  So, most freight won’t be affected.

I don’t like the “One Size Fits All” approach.  I’ve got a friend who is a retired railroad intermodal guy.  He’s absolutely convinced that the way for railroads to move perishables is in reefer boxcars.  He’s trying to put together a company to do so.  Now this isn’t traditional carload service.  That won’t work.  The plan is to establish intermodal terminals (for truck-boxcar transfer) and move the reefer cars between the terminals on existing Z trains.  That will work.

I know the UP tried something like this.  But they screwed it up trying to force it into a unit train operation.  Perishables aren’t unit train freight.

I reason that double stack has its market, TOFC, with the lighter trailers, has its market, and properly used boxcars have their market.  But if you say that to a typical railroad marketing person their response is likely to be “Whot?”

As an example, I’ll use the old NP line from Seattle to Pasco.  Washington State produces something like 59% of the apples in the US.  (Along with a whole lot of potatoes, onions, pears, cherries, etc.)  This produce moves thousands of miles to eastern population centers in great volumes.  The cited rail line runs right through the middle of the production area.  But the rail line can’t clear double stacks.  So, the produce moves by truck.  Come on folks, think.

As far as the terminals in Washington go, circus loading/unloading will work just fine.

"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 SD60MAC9500 on Monday, August 30, 2021 3:01 PM
 

oltmannd

 

 
greyhounds
There’s no question about it.  On the rail double stack is much more efficient.  The weight per load is less than TOFC.  This results in less fuel used, more revenue loads in a given train length, less wear and tear on track, etc.
 
In a terminal I see a trade off.  They can get more doubled stacked containers on a given track than they can trailers.  But things get more complex with containers as they must match up a chassis with a container instead of just setting a trailer on the ground.  There are more moves in the terminals to handle containers than trailers.  More moves = more costs.
 
On the highway, again, there’s no question about it.  But it’s the other way around.  The trailer is much more efficient.  A tractor-trailer combination will weigh less than a tractor-container-chassis combination.  Any increase in tare weight must be made up for in a loss of payload weight.  Not good.
We’re talking intermodal here, so rail costs, terminal costs, and highway costs all come in to play.
 
I’d opine that there needs to be more consideration of the total door to door costs.  Each component will factor in differently depending on the distance moved, the density of the commodity, and the capacity of the rail line.   I judge that’s there’s too much emphasis on the rail cost component to the detriment of the total cost component.
 
Any thoughts?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

I'm with you on this one.  There is still a lot of really high value, high revenue stuff going TOFC.  

What's funny about this, to me, is the double stacking came from the outside and was "forced" on the RRs.  Then the RRs woke up and saw the reduced costs and decided EVERYTHING had to be a stack.  I was in intermodal at Conrail when they tried to get UPS to try stacks.  Notice that nearly all UPS today remains TOFC.

I occasionally watch the Horseshoe Curve rail-cam and see where were the Conrail "mail" trains go by.  (Premium intermodal).  Still a ton of TOFC.  LTL guys, reefers, UPS, Fedex.  

I don't really understand why NS walked away from trying to make "Premium" Crescent Corridor.  Tons of truck load to convert.  (If they could get even 20% of the obnoxious Fedex guys off I-81, I'd be pleased)

 

I wouldn't call the railroad invention of doublestack an outsider that was forced upon the industry..  The economics of less fuel consumption and improved utiliaztion of freight carrying capacity couldn't be denied.

Concerning NS and canceling its crescent corridor proposal.. Wouldn't the Conrail split which took place 8 years earlier still be a drag on NS revenue? Considering they had to borrow roughly $6 Billion to beef up for their share of Conrail.

greyhounds

 

As an example, I’ll use the old NP line from Seattle to Pasco.  Washington State produces something like 59% of the apples in the US.  (Along with a whole lot of potatoes, onions, pears, cherries, etc.)  This produce moves thousands of miles to eastern population centers in great volumes.  The cited rail line runs right through the middle of the production area.  But the rail line can’t clear double stacks.  So, the produce moves by truck.  Come on folks, think.

As far as the terminals in Washington go, circus loading/unloading will work just fine.

 

Greyhounds remember the Cold Train service out of Quincy, WA that went belly up due to NT congestion? That terminal was in a good location for Wilbur-Elllis Basin growers. Majority of produce is grown east of the Cascades. So there's no doublestack restrictions. Even with produce grown west of the Cascades, that can use Stevens Pass or the Columbia River Gorge route which has no DS restrictions.

 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by Backshop on Monday, August 30, 2021 3:06 PM

For fruit like cherries, apples, etc., that are somewhat prone to "bruising"...what is the ride quality of a railcar versus a highway trailer with air ride suspension?

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Posted by greyhounds on Monday, August 30, 2021 4:03 PM

SD60MAC9500
Greyhounds remember the Cold Train service out of Quincy, WA that went belly up due to NT congestion? That terminal was in a good location for Wilbur-Elllis Basin growers. Majority of produce is grown east of the Cascades. So there's no doublestack restrictions. Even with produce grown west of the Cascades, that can use Stevens Pass or the Columbia River Gorge route which has no DS restrictions.

Yes, that's correct.

But you don't want to drag empty equipment, with no revenue, thousands of miles westbound.  A trucker running with a revenue load both ways will beat you.

Your're going to have some empty miles.  As will the trucker.  But the need is to minimize them.  The westbound loads will go in to Seattle/Tacoma/Portland.  They're part of the system that is required.

"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 Monday, August 30, 2021 8:53 PM

The biggest problem with trying to have two way service from any carrier involving a reefer trailer or container or a railcar is the FSMA or Food Safety Modernization Act of 2005.  That has a whole host of requirements and regulations that are expensive if you break them.  Imagine what the financial pain for a railroad could be if a railroad provided reefer car wasn't cleaned properly before a load of potatoes that are made into French fries for McDonald's.  Those fries ended up with say listeria or ecoli in them and they trace it back via the FSMA regulation to the railroad.  A lawyer would have a freaking field day in court with that case.  The standards that are required to be met well most trailers used by the mega fleets are traded in after 3 years.  Why to not have the headaches of dealing with older equipment and those regulations.  

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, August 30, 2021 8:56 PM

greyhounds

 

 I don’t like the “One Size Fits All” approach.  I’ve got a friend who is a retired railroad intermodal guy.  He’s absolutely convinced that the way for railroads to move perishables is in reefer boxcars.  He’s trying to put together a company to do so.  Now this isn’t traditional carload service.  That won’t work.  The plan is to establish intermodal terminals (for truck-boxcar transfer) and move the reefer cars between the terminals on existing Z trains.  That will work.

I know the UP tried something like this.  But they screwed it up trying to force it into a unit train operation.  Perishables aren’t unit train freight.

 

As far as the terminals in Washington go, circus loading/unloading will work just fine.

 

RailEx started the "unit train" perishable movement.  First from Washington state and then from California.  UP later bought the company.  UP stopped running the "unit trains" and moved the buisiness onto intermodal trains.  And then quit it (the former RailEx perishable model) entirely.

Does TOFC equipment that's capable of circus loading/unloading still exist?  I haven't seen any in years.  The last 89' TOFC flats that I remember seeing, and that's also been a long time, no longer had the bridge plates.  They had to be loaded/unloaded by lifting the trailer.

Jeff

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