Posts Tagged ‘trucks’

Trucks Keep Hitting CSX Bridge in Suburban Buffalo

February 2, 2021

A CSX bridge in suburban Buffalo, New York, has been struck by vehicles three times this year and at least 64 times since 2000.

The bridge, located in Tonawanda, spans Young Street and has a clearance of 11 feet, six inches.

Signs warn of low clearance and truck traffic is not permitted on the street. But overweight trucks continue to use the street and strike the bridge.

In one instance, the driver of an empty semi trailer truck that had been badly damaged after hitting the bridge continued on his way until stopped by police.

A recent incident involved a truck carrying pre-prepared means bound for Canada while another involved a truck carrying empty Crown Royal bottles.

Tonawanda Police Captain Fred Foels told the Buffalo News that it is difficult to explain why the incidents keep occurring. He began documenting them in 2000.

CSX officials must inspect the bridge, which was built in 1918, after every strike. They said the bridge remains structurally sound.

That doesn’t surprise Foels. “You look at it, it’s a battleship,” he said. “These things were built to last.”

Rail Shippers Favor Trucks Over Railroads

November 27, 2020

A survey of rail shippers finds they believe trucks better meet their shipping needs than do railroads.

The survey conducted by consulting firm Oliver Wyman of shippers in seven industries found that all respondents overwhelmingly preferred trucks, seeing them as superior in providing on-time performance, shipment visibility, and the availability of equipment and capacity.

Adriene Bailey, a partner at Oliver Wyman, said during the RailTrends 2020 conference that railroads continue to lose market share to trucks and could lose $177 billion in revenue by 2030 if current trends continue.

Although Class 1 railroad executives have touted their shift to the precision scheduled railroading model as having provided better service, one automotive shipper pointedly said, “We didn’t get faster or more reliable.”

Bailey said PSR may have made railroads more profitable, which benefited shareholders, but the true test of the operating model will be whether being more efficient can result in a material and sustainable growth trajectory for railroads

Between 2012 and 2018, railroads slightly grew their share of heavy, bulky, and low-value commodities that favor movement by rail while trucks maintained their share of high-value commodities such as perishables that favor movement by highway.

That left in the middle traffic that could move either by rail or highway that Bailey said represents the best opportunity for railroads to increase their traffic volume.

More than half of freight ton-miles in North America falls into this middle catgory.

Bailey said that although this represents the best opportunity for railroads to make gains, this freight has not been trending toward railroads.

If railroads want to capture this freight they must fit better into supply chains, improve the transit experience, and become customer-centric.

That would mean understanding each shippers whole supply chain.

Shippers now have the ability to calculate the entire cost of each shipment and to weigh such factors as on-time performance and the carrying cost of inventory in transit.

Such factors could chip away at the advantage that rail has in terms of cost over trucks.

Bailey called on railroads to provide on-time and reliable delivery while providing real-time shipment tracking information.

She said shippers want railroads to offer a better customer experience, from simpler online tools to more responsive customer service, and to be accountable for service failures while providing service metrics that are relevant to shippers.

The survey reached rail shippers in seven industries, including automotive, food, chemicals, metals, retail, oil and gas, and logistics firms.

Bailey said respondents would like to use rail more often but railroads are falling short of trucks when it comes to service, ease of doing business and customer focus.

There has been a turning away from rail by some shippers who are building new facilities without rail spurs or considering whether these new locations can easily be served by intermodal. “They are essentially dealing rail out of the deck in many cases,” Bailey said.

She added that it is not a story of doom and gloom for railroads.

“There is absolutely a huge opportunity for the railroads to continue to take advantage of the efficiency and capacity dividend that they have generated over the past three years through all of the work that they’ve done and turn this into a growth story,” Bailey said.

Panelist Discuss How Technological Changes are Affecting Competition Between Rails and Trucks

August 20, 2020

Railroads hold advantages over trucks in moving freight over longer distances, but those advantages might be wiped out or greatly diminished by the development of battery-powered rigs and autonomous truck operation.

Still, members of a panel that met during a recent Intermodal Association of North America webcast said Class 1 railroads have the money and time to do something about that because widespread use of battery-powered trucks and autonomous operation is still at least five years away.

Railroad industry observer Anthony Hatch said railroads have five advantages over trucks: Railroads are less labor intensive, more fuel efficient, have a lower carbon footprint, own their own infrastructure, and are financially strong.

In fact, Hatch said, the railroad industry is more profitable than ever.

But if railroads sit on those resources rather than invest them in becoming more efficient operators, trucks may erase some of those advantages.

Electric and autonomous trucks hold the promise of being less costly to operate, which would overcome the labor and fuel costs advantages that railroads have now.

“If we were to see a magical turnover to an all-electric road fleet, that would be good for the air that we breathe and not very good for railroad shareholders,” Hatch says.

He said some “very smart people” in the trucking industry are working diligently to figure out how to improve the range and lower the cost of battery-powered trucks as well as implement autonomous operation.

Battery-powered trucks are currently on the road, but their high cost means that trucks powered by diesel fuel are still cheaper.

Another drawback of existing battery-powered trucks is a range limited to 150 miles.

Currently, the economics of battery-powered trucks only work in California and because of a state subsidy implemented to reduce air pollution.

Most battery-powered trucks are being used for drayage and local service.

Brian Cota of Daimler Trucks America said many of the costs of owning and operating electric trucks, including battery life and charging costs, remain unknown.

He said trucking companies will need five years of experience with electric rigs before being able to get a handle on what the market will look like.

Panelists said battery-powered trucks need a range of at least 350 miles to become practical for regional moves.

The consensus in the railroad industry is that 500 miles is the floor at which railroad double-stack service can compete with trucks.

As for autonomous trucks, technology firm TuSimple is testing autonomous truck moves on Interstate 10 in the Southwest with a driver in the cab to monitor operations.

TuSimple is working with Navistar to produce self-driving semis by 2024.

TuSimple’s Robert Brown expects autonomous trucks to be used primarily for highway moves. Human drivers will be used for pickup and delivery at shippers’ docks.

Brown said the initial market is expected to be team driving routes that aren’t competitive with intermodal.

Seth Clevenger, managing editor of features at trade publication Transport Topics, said the move toward autonomous trucks is expected to be an evolution, not a revolution.

As for what railroads can do to counter advances in the trucking industry, Hatch said they could borrow some of the technology that truckers are developing.

That would include using battery-powered drayage trucks in order to reduce the costs of picking up and dropping off containers at rail terminals.

BNSF is operating a pilot program using autonomous yard trucks and autonomous and remote-control cranes in intermodal terminals.

It is also working with Wabtec to test a battery-powered road locomotive in California.

CSX CEO Says Better Service Will Bring Traffic Growth

November 15, 2019

CSX CEO James Foote continued his “our future is upbeat” tour this week, telling an investment conference that substantial improvements in service reliability will enable CSX to grow faster than the overall economy over the long term.

James Foote

Speaking to the Stephens Nashville Investment Conference, Foote said internal and independent surveys of CSX shippers have found they view the service provided by the carrier as having been much improved over the past two years.

“What they’re getting in terms of service quality today is off the charts,” he said.

Foote acknowledged CSX has lost business in previous years to trucks because of unreliable or inconsistent service.

But now Foote projects that CSX should see above average growth in volume and revenue.

In response to an audience question he said that CSX would see gains that exceed the nation’s gross domestic product, a measurement of economic growth.

“Long term, yes, absolutely I think so,” Foote said.

He said shipping merchandise freight by rail is less expensive than shipping by truck.

Since 2011 the U.S. GDP has been 37 percent while CSX’s traffic volume has been flat.

Between 2011 and 2018, CSX’s merchandise volume grew buy 1.7 percent, coal traffic declined 42 percent, and intermodal business rose 26 percent.

The latter is a particularly ripe area for growth, Foote said.

With CSX intermodal shipments meeting their trip plans 98 percent to 99 percent of the time, the carrier believes that 10 million highway shipments annually could be diverted to its intermodal network.

Last year CSX hauled 2.9 million containers and trailers.

Intermodal trip compliance plans are measured from terminal cutoff to terminal availability.

If CSX is to see growth in its merchandise network it will need to get trip compliance for merchandise shipping into the 90 percent range in order to compete with trucks.

Foote said CSX is getting close to that but still have a long way to go to reach it.

“We will get that business when our service levels get reliable enough,” Foote said.

Another factor is that the economy will need to improve, particularly the industrial economy.

The latter has been hindered by, among other things, global trade wars.

Foote acknowledged that intermodal traffic normally surges late in the year but that has not been the case this year.

He attributed that to changing shipping patterns. “We’re in the peak season and there’s not a peak,” he said.

J.B. Hunt May Move More Loads From Highway to Rail

October 19, 2019

Trucker J. B. Hunt Transport Services has indicated it may seek to move more highway freight to trains.

In a recent third quarter earnings call, Hunt officials noted they have come to accept that most Class 1 railroads have adopted the precision scheduled railroading operating model and they are learning to work with it.

Hunt said transcontinental loads, most of which moved on BNSF, increased by 7 percent during the third quarter, but loads in the East were off by 11 percent.

The trucking company has made substantial investment in information technology and sees that as an avenue for converting more truckload freight to intermodal.

It said fuel costs, truck rates, truck capacity, effective rail service, and the economy and prompting Hunt to move more loads to the rails.
Hunt officials have noted that CSX and Norfolk Southern have said they’d like to grow 10 percent in the East Coast.

Other potential growth areas include transloading and refrigeration containers, of which Hunt has a thousand units.

Hunt CEO John Roberts described PSR as “a little bit of a cleansing activity” and sees it as an indication of railroads meshing with Hunt’s goals of having more transloading activity, reefer traffic, and truckload conversions to intermodal.

A year ago Robert was a critic of PSR and railroad unreliability which required his company to turn away business yet also saw PSR as a an eventual positive for intermodal.

“Service has picked up from where it was last year,” Roberts said. “It’s not where the railroads have targeted to be, but they have definitely improved and it’s helped our velocity and their on-time service through the customer.”
Roberts said the implementation of PSR cost Hunt as many as 70,000 loads.

AAR Fighting ‘Twin-33’ Trucks

May 17, 2018

The Association of American Railroads is waging is annual fight in Congress against legislation that would allow larger trucks on the nation’s highways.

The trade association said it is opposing Twin-33s, which are two 33-foot trailers being pulled in tandem.

In past years the AAR has been silent on the issue of Twin 33s when it came up six years ago.

But the AAR said that just because railroads did not oppose Twin-33s then doesn’t mean they support them now.

At the time, the AAR was focusing much of its efforts to oppose an increase in weight and length limits for trucks.

Current truck size laws date to 1982 when Congress mandated that trucks using federally financed highways be no more than a tractor and two 28-foot trailers, and 82,000 pounds in weight.

Railroads and others have been able to defeat moves by the trucking industry over the years to increase those limits.

However, many trade groups believe that this year the climate is favorable in Congress to increase the truck limits.

Americans for Modern Transportation, which is funded by such companies as FedEx, UPS, two major retail trade associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is fighting for approval to legalize Twin-33s.

“We’re not reversing ourselves,” AAR head Edward Hamberger told Trains magazine. “We have been on the sideline on the twin-33 because we didn’ go after them in 2012, and we told people we wouldn’t. But that was 2012, and it’s now 2018, and AAR is off the sideline.”

The effort to legalize Twin-33 might be attached to a Department of Transportation appropriations bill now being considered by the House even though as written the bill does not contain any language pertaining to truck size.

House Committee Axes Provision From Spending Bill That Would Have Allowed Longer Trucks

December 19, 2015

The railroad industry won a victory when the House Appropriations Committee this past week removed from a federal spending bill a provision that would have allowed 33-foot double-length trailer trucks.

The trucking industry has been pushing for the longer trucks. Aside from the railroad industry, the longer truck provision was also opposed by safety advocates, law enforcement officials, and some truck drivers and trucking companies.

The opponents formed the Truck Safety Coalition to work against the longer trucks campaign.

The trucking industry argued that longer trucks would have removed some constraints in the movement of cargo on the nation’s highway system.