Rail Logistics companies in USA

Double Stack APL train heading East on the Gila Sub between Yuma and Tucson ArizonaBy Joseph O'Reilly

Double Stack APL train heading East on the Gila Sub between Yuma and Tucson Arizona

Intermodal solutions gather steam as shippers track the financial and efficiency benefits of combining truck and rail transport.

The U.S. railroad has always been measured by time. At the outset, it was a uniform system to mediate time differences across the United States, and build reliability into an erratic and rapidly expanding rail network. Railroad time remains a lasting standard.

By the time the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 rolled around a century later, however, the railroad's relevance as a mass means for moving non-commodity freight had waned considerably. It was no longer symbolic of an industrial and cultural awakening; rather, it became an indictment of an archaic and constrained mode of transport that had been quickly passed by a freewheeling motor freight industry.

Lift truck moving wine barrells at Ste. Michelle Wine EstateSwitch tracks to the present, and history is repeating itself. The transportation industry is turning back time. Supply chains have become more sophisticated in accurately forecasting and responding to demand. In turn, this flexibility allows for longer transportation moves, making time slightly less relevant. Cost and capacity are critical flashpoints, so shippers are willing to trade lead times for space availability at a lower price. They also recognize the advantages they can gain by pairing over-the-road flexibility with longer-haul economy. Past misconceptions about rail are now largely muted as industry moves toward an intermodal tipping point.

Over the past 30 years, the rail industry has made great strides re-inventing itself within a 21st-century supply chain defined by efficiency, economy, and sustainability—all hallmarks of today's railroads.

"This is not the old railroad. In the past, rail deliveries took up to two weeks, " says Jim Kleist, vice president of operations for Railex, a Riverhead, N.Y.-based rail distribution company. "Companies that shipped by rail lived with long lead times because they had no other options. It was the nature of the system."

"Twenty years ago, shippers perceived intermodalism as unreliable, " says John Lanigan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF Railway. "Over time, their concerns have been erased."

Uncorking Efficiencies

Woodinville, Wash.-based Ste. Michelle Wine Estates takes great care with its product shipments. In the wine industry, every ounce of attention and detail helps ensure the product's quality remains uncompromised from source to cellar to sommelier. Rail transport was never a viable option for Ste. Michelle—until it began working with Railex.

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