Leveraging/improving the role of freight railroads during the 2020-2021 supply chain crisis: What can be done better or at least differently?
Author: Jim Blaze
With lingering concerns about COVID-19 infections, this year’s attendance at the Sept. 12-14 Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) Expo2021 conference in Long Beach, Calif., was relatively low when compared to the association’s past events. But those participating—3PLs, shippers, railroads, truckers, maritime ship operators, ports and various containerization suppliers—were energized about the multi-modal trade with containers, and the presentation sessions offered meaningful metrics and give-and-take dialogue. And yes, equipment, technology, and various intermodal services and products were on display with a “please touch and question” atmosphere.
Jim Blaze takes a technical look at the Class I’s responses to the STB’s inquiry on intermodal from his experience dating back to 1968.
I spent about a half-decade of my railway career working with several intermodal freight logistics luminaries: Marvin Manheim of Northwestern University’s Transportation Center, Penn State Professor of Logistics Kant Rao and Bryan Stone of Intercontainer, with contributions from Rick Hill and Dick Andino, pioneers of ship-to-rail intermodal at APL. These folks and others helped shape my view of moving containers along complex links and nodes among different modes and terminals.
Here are a few observations about the often operationally complex competitive rail carload service that many shippers and public advocates would like federal regulators to shove down the throats of the railroads: “reciprocal switching,” or as the Association of American Railroads calls it, “forced access,” a “misguided” method that could, ultimately, undermine the railroads’ ability to reliably serve customers.
The Class I railroads have responded to the Surface Transportation Board’s strategic question: “Are You Prepared?” Shippers should look for certain signals.
Is this New Orleans-to-Mobile Amtrak commuter-like train proposal “a rather complex story,” like the meaning behind the lyrics of the 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd hit, Sweet Home Alabama?
In a somewhat-unexpected action, Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Martin Oberman recently suggested some ideas and offered borderline critique about pending public railroad issues. During my long railroad career, such displays of opinion were restricted normally to written official procedural decisions text. A lot of this is geographically following congestion and related intermodal rail service issues around Memphis. Here is my strategic view.
Amtrak released its Corridor Vision on May 27. This rail economist recommends that readers balance the public relations statement with the rest of the missing story.
FTR Transportation Intelligence Chairman and CEO Eric Starks and Vice President Rail and Intermodal Todd Tranausky recently hosted a webinar to examine the rail freight market in terms of volume and recovery pace, as well as their professional outlook for North American freight car manufacturing. As an invited media journalist and commentator, here are my takeaways for Railway Age readers.