New York short line partners with trucking and logistics firm to glean transload gold

New York & Atlantic Railway owns the Long Island City, New York, facility and licenses it to Newhaven Distribution for freight-rail and transloading uses. It features five rail-car spots and is situated near the Long Island Expressway. New York & Atlantic Railway/Gregory Grice

Newhaven Distribution Services Inc. (NHD) provides cross-docking, local truck delivery and rail-car unloading, staging and storage services for customers bringing products into the New York tri-state area.

The warehousing, distribution and transportation firm considers itself a rail-centric trucking and logistics company. NHD operates a TRANSFLO transload facility in Kearny, New Jersey, that’s owned and served by CSX.

New York & Atlantic Railway (NY&A) operates over 270 miles of MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) track under a freight operations agreement. The railroad considers itself a truck-competitive, yet embraces-trucking-as-a-partner short line.

Those forces came together late last year in an effort to combine the efficiencies of long-haul rail and short-line service with the speed of last-mile truck deliveries. Owned by Anacostia Rail Holdings Co., NY&A teamed up with NHD to use a former LIRR express delivery cross-dock facility as a transload facility for handling certain food commodities.

The short line owns the facility in Long Island City, New York, and licenses it to NHD for freight-rail uses. Shipments received are primarily canned tomato paste and products coming from California production facilities and rice delivered from mills mainly located in Arkansas.

 The rice loads originate on Union Pacific Railroad and reach NY&A via the short line’s CSX connection. The tomato products are mostly moved by BNSF Railway Co., with NY&A receiving the cars via Norfolk Southern Railway at Bay Ridge Brooklyn after they’re barged across the harbor by New York New Jersey Rail LLC, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey subsidiary. Some of the tomato products originate on UP and are brought to NY&A by CSX.

NHD and NY&A worked with food suppliers to coordinate rail delivery to the cross-dock facility, where the tomato products and rice are quickly transloaded to trucks for final deliveries.

Since the New York metropolitan area is heavily congested with packed highways and is strained by severely limited warehousing space, any new option that can offer fast inventory depletion and quick and seamless transportation is welcome by supply chain constituents. The Long Island City facility features 28 overhead doors and five rail-car spots, and is situated near the Long Island Expressway.

Tomato products and rice shipments began to arrive in Long Island City in late November 2020. The traffic generated by the facility is expected to total about 325 carloads in 2021 — two-thirds of which will be tomato products — helping to remove several thousand long-haul trucks from the region’s highways.

Newhaven Distribution A warehousing, distribution and transportation services firm, Newhaven Distribution considers itself a rail-centric trucking and logistics company. Newhaven Distribution Services Inc.

NHD acted quickly to gain usage of the Long Island City facility because it’s an ideal location for their services, says Charles Samul, NY&A’s director of sales and marketing, who’s conducted business with Newhaven for more than 30 years.

“It’s a facility designed purely for cross docking. They get a rapid flow of goods through the facility with hardly any storage,” he says.

Volume continues to build, and now rice shipments are nearly equal to tomato paste loads, says Samul.

A major transloading complication that needed to be addressed for NHD is the way tomato product cans and rice are loaded into rail cars. The cans typically are palletized and machine loaded and unloaded, while the rice is loaded on car floors by hand one bag at a time.

“It takes a lot more time to unload rice. We are sensitive to that,” says Samul.

NY&A worked with NHD to deliver only one rice-loaded car and four tomato product-loaded cars at a time so unloading processes don’t get bogged down, he says. At times, the short line provides a maximum of two rice cars and three tomato product cars.

NY&A aims to provide a quick equipment turnaround time so the products can be offloaded quickly and delivered to local customers.

NHD draws additional benefits from the partnership by using NYA’s Shipper Connect, an app that provides shipment visibility as loads move by rail. The app enables NHD to manage its cars online.

Ultimately, the partnership has generated a number of benefits for the region as well, such as by reducing highway congestion, decreasing emissions and improving supply chain efficiency, says Samul.