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SHIPPERS ON INTERMODAL: CHANGES NEEDED FOR GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES

intermodal

SHIPPERS ON INTERMODAL: CHANGES NEEDED FOR GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES

The intermodal transportation sector is experiencing an interesting shift as of lately. The combination of disruptions from the pandemic while others are caught playing catch up to adequately refill warehouses and distribution centers has posed new questions for a variety of sector leaders. For the intermodal sector, however, a new question is present in the minds of leaders and players in this arena: What is needed to leverage opportunities for growth post-pandemic and moving forward with the “new normal” we keep hearing about?

The answer to this question is not found within one single solution or technology offering. In fact, there is no single answer at all. The perfect mix of artificial intelligence, increasing capacity and creating more visibility and agility within operations will ultimately be the key to reviving and maintenance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all parts of the supply chain, from operations and compliance to technology integration, and although many players have successfully restarted operations, it is important to consider the ways transportation has been forever impacted to better prepare for future disruptions. But in what ways has the pandemic impacted the intermodal industry? Doug Punzel, president of Celtic Intermodal, explains exactly how the pandemic has impacted the sector and how methods are shifting to accommodate continued movement.

“As COVID-19 continues to impact the supply chain and logistics across industries, some areas have limited access to trucks,” explains Punzel. “The truck shortage has increased demand for intermodal transportation. In fact, beginning the third week in April, we have begun to see surges in volume–especially in California, Texas and Mexico. We are seeing shortages of box and train capacity in some areas, as shippers with expanding needs are caught up and filling warehouses. At the same time, many markets in the United States have plenty of box, drayage and train capacity.”

Utilizing a robust technology toolbox further supports the industry, although some sectors are slower to adapt than their partners. The key to remember here is not how much tech is being used, but what challenges are solved through their implementation and how they are customizable for specific customer needs.

“AI, machine learning and other software advancements allow real-time visibility of end-to-end supply chain operations to keep a pulse on the business,” Punzel says. “The ultimate goal is to reduce risks, capture more competitive freight pricing, and identify optimal routes for the greatest cost savings.

“With today’s volatile current events that threaten to disrupt the supply chain on a regular basis, flexibility is vital for business success. For many shippers, intermodal transportation has incredible potential to be a reliable and affordable component of logistics strategy. Technology innovations are supporting real-time visibility, mitigating risks, and optimizing transportation costs.”

Celtic Intermodal, a Transplace company, offers a unique solutions portfolio for customers seeking the perfect solutions, offering flexibility and visibility while keeping an eye on the unexpected. Celtic focuses on what the customer needs are throughout the process while identifying areas of improvement both operationally and financially. The company offers customers Strategic Capacity Solutions, Door-to-Door Intermodal, 53-foot Containers, 40-foot Containers, Cross-border Intermodal and International Drayage in addition to managing more than 20,000 40-foot container shipments each year. Celtic’s robust network of steamship lines and dray provider partners further support consistent capacity to meet the needs of their global customer network.

“We implement dynamic solutions to our customers’ transportation needs by providing exceptional customer services, capacity, reliability and expertise,” Punzel says. “With access to over 70,000 containers every day and strong relationships with major rail providers, including Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF, CN, CP, and KCS/KCSM, our dedicated account team focuses on our customers–providing the best combination of rates and routes.

“Our cross-border intermodal services bypass border-crossing issues and congestion,” he continues. “We enhance the security of customers’ shipments while reducing overall transportation spend with our door-to-door intermodal services across Canada, Mexico and the U.S.”

The unique relationship Celtic has with its Class 1 Railways network offers customers competitive options in transportation that others cannot. Punzel points out two specific pros to working with Celtic that keep shipments moving and customers satisfied.

“We are strategically located near our customers and where rail ramps are located,” he says. “We can be more effective with short-haul moves within five to 800 miles because we are closer to rail ramps. And in case of derailment or tunnel outage or another type of outage, we leverage our relationships to remain in close communications with Class 1 Railways and be more collaborative to support our customers’ needs. We conduct network analysis to help customers identify modal conversions and scale up or down with volume. With well-integrated intermodal transportation, overall shipping costs are greatly reduced.”

Punzel goes on to explain that the simplicity of scheduling is a significant factor to promoting growth for the intermodal sector. It goes directly back to predictability and the constant need for progression within the industry. The relationships developed and utilized by Celtic provides added security for customers in case of the unpredictable. This is especially important in today’s “new normal,” where measures in safety and regulation seem to change without much notice. The supply chain does not have time to stop and companies such as Celtic present solutions for issues before they happen.

“Customers with over-the-road freight are open to conversion to intermodal only if the schedule is predictable,” Punzel explains. “Over the past three years, all railroads have improved service by maintaining reliable, scheduled, on-time performance, which is key to growth.”

So, what exactly needs to occur for progression and growth within the intermodal sector? In simple terms, the perfect mix consisting of the right technology that provides accurate and timely visibility, advanced predictions analytics, integrated communications, and removing inefficiencies that create unplanned costs. This perfect mix is not as hard to attain when customers are paired with the right partners for the job. As we learned with Celtic, strategic locations and competitive offerings make a significant difference in offering the best options and supporting the bottom line.

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Doug Punzel is the president of Celtic International, to which he brought more than three decades of transportation experience. He joined Celtic in 2014 and has been instrumental in the company’s growth. Throughout his tenure in the industry, he has served in a number of roles, including sales, customer service, operations and leadership. Prior to Celtic, he was a leader within the intermodal sales division at Schneider National.

cross-border

Supporting Global Supply Chain Strategy with Cross-Border Shipping

COVID-19 has shed light on the importance of shippers being prepared to work through unforeseen market conditions. This is especially true for cross-border shippers, whose businesses are reliant on multiple countries’ markets. To better prepare for these variations, businesses that rely on cross-border shipping should consider optimizing their supply chain strategies now by dedicating time to understand the cross-border options available to them. There are two primary choices: through-trailer and transloading.

What’s the difference?

Through-trailer shipping is the process of moving shipments in the origin trailer through border crossings. Whether exporting or importing, through-trailer shipments are handled on one side of the border with a carrier from the same country who has an interchange agreement. A different carrier from the other country handles the second part of the shipment.

To illustrate, a Mexico carrier with a trailer interchange agreement with a U.S. carrier picks up the freight. It’s taken to a secure yard where a border drayage driver transports the trailer across the border to the U.S. carrier’s yard for final delivery.

The shipment remains in the same trailer throughout the transport process, leading some shippers to believe the shipment seal is not broken. This is not necessarily true. U.S. and Mexico customs officials often break seals during border crossing inspections to verify product details.

Transloading is another option and is often considered more efficient. Transloading is the process of transferring shipments from one trailer to another at the border crossing. For example, a Mexico carrier picks up the freight and moves it to a secure yard at the border. A border drayage carrier moves the trailer across the border to a transloading facility. The facility then transfers the product to a U.S. carrier for final delivery.

The Benefits of Transloading

While both options have their pros and cons, transloading can offer some unique benefits that fall into three categories:

Additional Carrier Capacity: Transloading offers shippers additional carrier capacity because it enables them to access the full capacity of two independent carrier bases. Any U.S. carrier can pair with any Mexico carrier on a shipment, increasing available carrier options and granting additional flexibility. Through-trailer service only allows shippers to use carriers with an interchange agreement in place with a counterpart carrier on the other side of the border, limiting the capacity pool. With lessened demand not filling up truckloads, the ability to leverage the additional carrier capacity to identify which carriers’ trucks best match truckloads keeps products moving to meet consumer demand.

Lower Shipping Costs: Transloading grants access to additional capacity on both sides of the border, which means more, and potentially more efficient, carrier options. With transloading, shippers and logistics providers can identify carriers whose networks most closely align with theirs, resulting in more cost-effective rates. During a time when all departments are urged to cut costs where possible, the method with lower shipping costs benefits everyone involved.

Fewer Border Delays: The broad variety of carriers available to shippers makes it easier to source carriers on both sides of the border that best match the ideal pick-up and delivery time frames. Through-trailer shipments are dependent upon the limited capacity of the two carriers tied to an interchange agreement. In turn, this can lead to delays at borders and in overall shipments. Such delays are becoming more widespread because of the imbalance between northbound and southbound freight.

The Types of Freight to be Transloaded

Any specialized transloading facility located near a major border should have the ability to handle a variety of freight, although some types work better than others. Freight loaded on slip sheets or pallets typically fare best with transloading, especially consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, and raw materials. Transloading is also prevalent when shipping to warehouses with strict labeling and palletization requirements. Conversely, freight is better off using through-trailer shipping when it requires specialized loading, contains over-dimensional products, or includes flatbed shipments.

The needs of each shipper with a global supply chain strategy differ and come with unique challenges and requirements. It’s critical for each shipper to know their cross-border options and determine which will work best for their business. By being knowledgeable and prepared, shippers can more easily select which process to implement based on what is most important to their company at the time, whether that be price, shipping time, or carrier capacity.

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Kyle Toombs is the VP and Head of Mexico and Canada at Coyote Logistics

south carolina ports authority

South Carolina Ports Authority Welcomes the New Year with Optimistic Outlook

South Carolina Ports Authority boasted an impressive 2019 and is more than prepared to leverage this year’s momentum for a successful 2020. Robust cargo volumes were reported throughout the year for container, breakbulk, and inland terminals in addition to international recognition for performance and productivity, specifically the Port of Charleston and Wando Welch Terminal No. 1 by Journal of Commerce. SCPA brought in additional recognitions in 2019 as well, including “Best Places to Work in South Carolina” and CEO and President Jim Newsome’s recognition as one of DC Velocity Logistics Rainmakers. 

“The equipment operators at S.C. Ports and all those working in the maritime community enable the notable productivity that cargo owners have come to rely on at S.C. Ports,” said SCPA Board Chairman Bill Stern.

SCPA reported an impressive 2.25 million TEUs handled since January, of which 184,928 TEUs were handled a the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals in November alone. November’s success brought the total y-o-y increase to 6 percent for fiscal year 2020.

“We continue to attract cargo with our efficiently run terminals and reliable service,” SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “This is made possible by our excellent team and the broader maritime community, all of whom work tirelessly to keep cargo moving seamlessly through our supply chain.”

“Looking ahead to 2020, we expect to continue weathering uncertainty in the world economy, but our strong position in the Southeast and proximity to a booming consumer market will drive growth,” Newsome added. “We expect to grow above the market as more cargo shifts from West Coast to East Coast ports.”

SCPA’s Columbus Street terminal was also reported with a 17 percent increase in regards to vehicle imports and exports compared to last year’s numbers. A total of 19,933 were handled in November.

As 2020 quickly approaches, SCPA continues to focus on increasing retail volumes while managing imports through South Carolina-based distribution centers while maintaining its position in the public seaport and intermodal facility sectors.

“We appreciate the board’s continued support of our investments that enable us to service some of the biggest ships in the world,” Newsome concluded. “This next year is critical as we progress on our momentous infrastructure investments, including a new container terminal and a 52-foot deep harbor, both set for completion in 2021.”
Intermodal Expo

Intermodal Expo Brings the Best in Business and Expertise

September 15 marked the first day of this year’s IANA Intermodal Expo in Long Beach, California. This is no ordinary expo, however. While more than 125 exhibitors and 60 plus intermodal experts in attendance, this conference covers all bases for three days each year, leaving no unfinished business. It’s no wonder why some are referring to the paramount event as “all-encompassing” while addressing all tiers of business.

Whether you’re interested in learning about the latest and greatest in intermodal solutions or seeking the expertise from an industry expert on strategic planning, IANA’s Intermodal Expo undoubtedly provides a clear view of where the industry stands while navigating the current landscape.

Among leading companies in attendance discussing the latest and greatest topics, business strategies, trends, and solutions in intermodal and supply chain include Loadsmart, Armstrong & Associates, SeaIntelligence Consulting, Canadian National Railway (CN), United Parcel Service, BNSF Railway, and many more.

Technology and automation continue leading trends as more companies continue to report increasing demand for the capabilities, efficiencies, and opportunities enabled through innovation

“There’s always a force in this space right now that changes everything and one needs to be cognizant of that force,” explained Jeffrey Leppert, Senior Vice President, Capacity Solutions, Redwood Logistics during the “Growth Strategies for Non-Asset 3PLs session.

Maintaining an advantageous position against competitors in an evergreen business landscape can be tricky. Hunter Yaw, Vice President of Product Management and Business Development, at Loadsmart addressed this topic head-on, leaving all apprehensions aside.

“We focus on what systems our customers are currently using and we integrate a lot with major TMS systems. We could ask folks to come  to us one way or another but, the reality is… we’re much better off partnering with the existing players in the industry and teaming with them to add more value within the current system’s framework rather than try to reinvent the wheel across the board.”

As the final day quickly approaches, Intermodal Expo will resume at 8 a.m. sharp on Wednesday with the Intermodal Safety Committee Meeting followed by the Operations Committee Meeting.

Global Trade Magazine will continue participating throughout the remainder of the conference at booth 812 ready to discuss your business goals for growth and expansion. Come by and see us for the final day of Intermodal Expo 2019!

Transplace Shipper Symposium

The 17th annual event brings together today’s most forward-thinking transportation and logistics visionaries. Impacted by data management, capacity constraints and economic and regulatory issues? The Transplace Shipper Symposium is the place to be.

Don’t miss the opportunity to join transportation industry leaders at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Dallas, Texas from May 6-8. Keynote speakers scheduled include Kenneth W. Gronbach, President of KGC Direct, LLC and Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Founder and CEO of Extreme Living.

The two-day conference is packed with networking and charity opportunities and includes an impressive lineup of panel speakers providing insight on topics such as LTL, intermodal, shippers,  and supply chain trends for 2019. This year’s event will also feature a special Women in Logistics Networking Event at the Four Seasons Well & Being Spa.

To register your spot for this exquisite conference, click here.

 

Topics of discussion included: terminal overload and new technologies to increase throughput; tightened trucking capacity; needs of shippers and adaptive change in the supply chain

IANA Intermodal Expo 2018: Key takeaways and discussion topics

Beautiful Long Beach, California was the setting for IANA’s (Intermodal Association of North America) annual expo, the IANA Intermodal Expo 2018. Over 2,000 representatives from the intermodal and transportation communities touched down to present, converse, debate and exchange ideas surrounding trends and issues shaping the future of the larger intermodal supply chain community.

We had the pleasure of exhibiting and attending with those 2,000 plus attendees, and this year’s expo was chalk full of over 60 industry experts and a staggering 125 plus exhibitors showcasing some of the most technologically advanced products and services the intermodal industry has seen.

Day 1:

The morning of Day 1 kicked off with Bill Strauss, senior economist and adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Mr. Strauss managed to bring an initial, collective smile to the room, noting that the 2018 expo is meeting at a time of strong economic growth. Consumer spending and GDP are up, the economy has been growing at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent (since 2009), and if this continues through July of next year new records will likely be reached.

The intermodal industry numbers support Mr. Strauss, as intermodal volumes were up 7 percent (as of August 2018) compared to last year with the third-party logistics sector also expanding – global estimates peg the market to reach $968 billion this year, compared to $869 billion last year.

IANA is a “connecting force” for the intermodal freight sector, bringing together the most relevant (and up and coming) players via the creation of spaces, such as the Intermodal Expo, to stay informed, drive industry success and strengthen the broader community. IANA members count on a wealth of resources, but most important, access to relevant trends that are shaping the sector at breakneck speeds.

Day 2:

A handful of truly remarkable innovations were on-hand at this year’s expo. A recurring issue year in and year out is terminal overload. Moderated by Taso Zografos, Principal at ZDEVCO, the panel, “Intermodal Terminal Overload: How Can Technology Help?” brought together a handful of expert panelists on the issue where autonomous vehicles, automated stacking cranes and similar “smart equipment” was presented. Warehouses, marine terminals and rail ramps are fantastic for “smart equipment” due to little vehicle traffic and confined areas. The next challenge however will be rolling this out to harbor drayage and the open road. As Wade Long, regional vice president of Volvo Trucks astutely noted, heavy-duty diesel trucks, many operated by living, breathing drivers, will still be around for at least the next 50 years.

Another recurring theme throughout the two-day event was productivity, especially in a time of truck driver shortages. This has been a troubling point for some time, where a shortage of drivers produces bottlenecks throughout the supply chain thus hampering productivity at a macro level. Larry Gross, president of Gross Transportation Consulting, moderated an engaging panel surrounding this very issue. Driver productivity has been on the decline, and Phil Shook, director of intermodal for C.H. Robinson, communicated it best noting that the industry standard used to be 500 miles per driver, and that has now dipped into the 400s. The room agreed that getting an extra half-a-load per driver per day is the proverbial Holy Grail.

Next year’s expo will be held September 15-17, 2019 in that same jewel beside the bay – Long Beach, California. Pack your swim-trunks, this is an expo you don’t want to miss! Register to exhibit before space fills up or if you are just looking to attend, registration opens up in March of 2019.

 

 

CSX Opens New Canadian Intermodal Terminal

Jacksonville, FL – Rail carrier CSX has opened a new intermodal terminal in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield near Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The facility expands CSX’s intermodal network capacity and offers Canadian customers domestic and international service that connects with the railroad’s 21,000 mile network in the U.S.

The $100 million terminal, which spans 89 acres, includes cutting-edge equipment to capitalize on the efficiency and environmental benefits of intermodal rail transportation, such as three state-of-the-art rubber-tire gantry cranes – the first of their kind at an Eastern Canadian intermodal facility.

Construction also incorporated environmentally sustainable innovations in the areas of noise abatement and protection of downstream waterways.

With capacity for 100,000 loads, the Valleyfield terminal is an important addition to the railroad’s unique intermodal network, which offers both point-to-point corridor service and a hub-and-spoke model that allows it to reach into small- and medium-sized markets, to capitalize on the growing demand for intermodal transport.

Trains serving the new terminal will also connect through the Northwest Ohio intermodal hub, “offering efficient access to markets across the United States and Canada,” the carrier said.

12/19/2014

 

Long Beach Tackles Chronic Port Congestion

Long Beach, CA – Responding to the chronic congestion snarling the movement of cargo containers through one of the country’s busiest ports, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners has approved the use of port property as a temporary site for the storage of empty containers.

The “Temporary Empty Container Depot” will be operated on 30 acres of a vacant, undeveloped area on Pier S on Terminal Island in a move to “help to free up needed equipment to move cargo out of shipping terminals faster” and “put back into circulation more chassis,” the wheeled trailer-frames that trucks use to haul containers.

Truckers using the new will be able to deliver empty containers and remove them from a chassis, and then use the chassis to pick up and haul loaded containers to nearby intermodal rail facilities or their regional destinations.

The depot will be operated by a private company, Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals, under a permit that will expire at the end of March 2015.

Designation of the new depot is reportedly one of several measures the port is pursuing to relieve the congestion issues that have come with a surge of cargo in the last two months caused by the busy peak shipping season, the advent of larger ships and a change in the ownership system for chassis fleets.

In addition to the depot, the port has reportedly crafting a plan to operate its own chassis fleet for peak cargo shipping seasons and facilitate the introduction by private chassis fleets of an additional 3,000 chassis into the local equipment pool.

“We hear our customers loud and clear,” said Doug Drummond, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “This congestion is not acceptable, and the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is ensuring that the Port of Long Beach is doing everything it can to see that we clear up these issues now and forever.”

11/17/2014

 

Florida East Coast Rwy Enhances Intermodal Service

Jacksonville, FL – The Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) is expanding its services to include intermodal rail transportation between Charlotte, North Carolina and a number of locations in South Florida.

The company’s new Piedmont Express service is available five days a week, utilizing FECR’s assets.

The “seamless” two-day service allows customers to select from a variety of pickup and delivery options, including door-to-door, ramp-to-door, and ramp-to-ramp.

“We are pleased to offer our reliable intermodal service to customers moving freight between the Carolinas and South Florida,” said James R. Hertwig, FERC president and CEO.

“On average, for every four southbound shipments arriving in South Florida, there is only one northbound shipment,” he said. “This imbalance can be challenging; however, FECR’s Piedmont Express in FECR’s containers provides a cost-effective option for customers in the Carolinas.”

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Florida East Coast Railway provides a wide range of services, including carload and door-to-door intermodal solutions across North America.

In addition, FECR connects customers to worldwide locations through its strategic partnerships with Port Miami, Port Everglades and Port of Palm Beach.

09/18/2014

 

Union Pacific Christens New Intermodal Terminal

Santa Teresa, NM – Officials from the Union Pacific Railroad and the State of New Mexico were on-hand recently to officially christen the rail carrier’s new $400 million, 300-acre rail facility in Santa Teresa.

The facility sits on a 2,200 tract of land purchased by the UP and is located near the city’s three industrial parks and the Santa Teresa port of entry.

The new terminal includes one of Union Pacific’s largest fueling facilities and the railroad’s largest intermodal freight terminal along the US-Mexico border.

The high-tech intermodal terminal opened April 1 and is expected to process more than 170,000 freight containers this year. It is to be expanded in future years to eventually handle 700,000 containers a year.

Union Pacific generated about $4 billion in intermodal business last year — 20 percent of its total freight sales of $20.7 billion.

The state Legislature’s passage of a bill exempting Union Pacific from paying locomotive fuel tax was a key piece to get Union Pacific to build the facility, officials said. That bill was signed by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in March 2011. Construction began in the summer of that year.

A series of land swaps between the state, the federal government, and the Union Pacific allowed the railroad to acquire the 2,200 acres in Santa Teresa, most of it owned by the Bureau of Land Management, according to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

06/17/2014