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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Around the intermodal horn: BNSF makes transit-time strides; KCSR/NS launch Florida service; UP earns UPS honor; L.A. port adds incentive


Intermodal trains are moving more fluidly along BNSF Railway Co.’s lines — the year-long drop in total traffic demand notwithstanding. In the first quarter, the Class I reduced average transit time for domestic and international intermodal traffic by 12 hours compared with first-quarter 2008.

In some lanes, shipment availability improved by as much as 20 hours. In addition, BNSF achieved about a 99 percent average for door-to-door, on-time deliveries, primarily because the Class I worked with intermodal partners and leveraged available capacity.

"Intermodal performance improvements are a direct result of capital investments and productivity enhancements made over the last several years," said Steve Branscum, group vice president-BNSF Consumer Products, in a prepared statement.

During the past 10 years, BNSF has spent about $30 billion to improve infrastructure and expand its locomotive fleet. Of the railroad’s 32,000 track miles, about 5,000 miles are double tracked, including most of the southern Transcon line between Los Angeles and Chicago.

"We've seen first hand the benefit of BNSF's investments on intermodal transport," said Steve Palmer, vice president of transportation for intermodal shipper Lowe's Cos. Inc. "We have seen less variance and more consistency in transit times over the last three years.”

Meanwhile, Kansas City Southern Railway Co. (KCSR) and Norfolk Southern Railway on March 30 began offering container and trailer service from Dallas to NS’ new Titusville, Fla., terminal. Traffic is routed over KCSR from Dallas to Meridian, Miss.; and over NS from Meridian to Titusville.

Previously, KCSR moved central Florida-destined intermodal shipments to Meridian, and NS moved the loads from Meridian to Jacksonville, Fla., where it was trucked to various distribution centers.

The new routing provides intermodal marketing companies and asset providers a more cost-effective option, and enables KCSR to be more competitive with over-the-road carriers, the Class I said.

At Union Pacific Railroad, a strong 2008 peak season performance has earned the Class I recognition from United Parcel Service for the second consecutive year. UP delivered about 9,500 UPS containers and trailers and achieved a record 91 percent on-time performance. UPS was able to deliver all package sorts on time during the peak season, which ran from Nov. 23 to Dec. 24, the shipper said.

Finally, the Port of Los Angeles will launch a second incentive program for intermodal shippers on May 1. The port will pay shipping companies $20 per 20-foot equivalent unit for each container they bring into the complex via rail that exceeds their 2008 volume. Earlier this year, the port began providing shippers a 10 percent discount on each container they transport to or from the complex by rail.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/6/2009