Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Heller’

NS Has Started Redesigning its Intermodal Network

September 20, 2019

Norfolk Southern has begun to design a revamp of its intermodal network part of the process of implementing its TOP21 operating plan.

Jeffrey Heller, NS vice president of intermodal and automotive, told an intermodal conference this week that the goal of the revamp is to find efficiencies, cut costs, and improve operations and service.

NS began implementing TOP21 in its merchandise network this past July and will follow the same process in intermodal that it did with merchandise traffic.

The carrier will improve terminal operations before making sweeping changes to road trains. NS has 50 intermodal terminals.

Heller told the annual expo of the Intermodal Association of North America that NS will seek to combine shorter intermodal trains into longer ones.

It might move anchor blocks of intermodal traffic into the consists of merchandise trains.

Those merchandise trains are fewer in number, longer, heavier and rely on distributed motive power.

Any changes to the intermodal network will likely be made early next year after NS has had the opportunity to collaborate with its shippers, Heller said.

Heller said that in the long term, railroads need to become more efficient as truckers move toward platooning and autonomous operations.

Although NS service is not where the carrier wants it to be, Heller said it has improved.

He said that TOP21, which is the moniker NS has given to its version of precision scheduled railroading, has enabled NS to become a faster, more fluid railroad with less terminal dwell times and faster average train speeds.

NS has seen a decline in its domestic intermodal business due in part to falling truck rates,.

Heller said trucking companies ordered a record number of new rigs last year and are now scrambling to find business to keep those rigs rolling.

“We are now at a decision point, where we could either chase the business or wait for the growth to come back,” Heller said.