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Consumer Goods Logistics Blog


Traveling the Rails - No Longer Just for Hobos

Published by Larry Catanzaro on December 19, 2012

When product has to be moved from point A to point B, the first call is usually to a transportation solutions provider such as KANE (Kane Is Able, Inc.) in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Often customers' only concerns are…Do we have trucks available?  At what rate?  When can we be there?

After meeting that immediate demand, we take a step back and look for long term solutions.  

One mode of transportation that often is overlooked by our customers is the rail system.  A potential reason for this is the belief that product will take weeks to get delivered.  With over 140,000 miles of track throughout the nation and major rail terminals popping up all over the country, this should no longer be a concern.  Other customers ignore this mode of transportation altogether, because they are not familiar with what intermodal has to offer.  Don't be so quick to dismiss rail as an option – it may prove to be the most cost effective mode of transportation for you.  

Our most recent success story involved a customer out of Michigan.  They had high truckload volume going from their facility in Michigan to one of our distribution centers in Scranton.  In addition to moving 70+ loads, the shipments had to be picked up and delivered within days of their order. 

It's no secret that capacity is tight, especially in the Northeast.  Let's be honest – regardless of a company's fleet size, coming up with 70 trucks is a challenge for most operations.  We needed a cost effective solution for our customer, and we immediately thought intermodal. 

KANE arranged to move all of the loads from the customer's facility to the Norfolk Southern rail yard in Cicero, Illinois.  From there, the containers moved by rail to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  We made arrangements to pick up all chassis in Harrisburg and deliver it to the KANE business campus in Scranton.  

You would think this entire move would have taken a long time to complete, but, to the contrary, all loads arrived in Scranton two days after the drop-off in Illinois.  And, as an added benefit, they were moved for less than the cost of typical truck transportation.

There are a vast number of rail lines servicing different parts of the country.  In the Northeast, the major players are CSX and Norfolk Southern.  Factors that go into determining if rail is the right choice for you include your delivery schedule, your proximity to a major rail yard, your delivery points' proximity to a rail yard, and the total route miles.  It also should be noted that buying rail services is a commodity – more volume = lower rates.  You may have more buying power than you think. 

In this day and age, customers are able to foresee shipping requirements far in advance.  If you are shipping product via truck over and over to the same area, I would suggest that you see what rail has to offer.

Filed under: Freight Transportation