Intermodal freight industry considers investing in resilience

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Long Beach, CA — The intermodal freight industry is discussing how much to invest in infrastructure and other spending to build resilience in the face of catastrophic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. ..

Panelists addressing this issue at the North American Intermodal Association’s Intermodal Expo, held here on September 14, sacrificed efficiency in the face of competitive truck threats by incorporating excess capacity into the system. We discussed whether it would be.

Adrian Bailey, a ground transportation partner and panel moderator at Oliver Wyman Consulting, said:

Industry issues regarding the availability of truck chassis for moving containers have led panelists to disagree on the importance of the issue and the necessary fixes.

Acors (Jerry Hirsch for Transport Topics)

Duke Acres, head of strategic operations at the Georgia Port Authority, said the problem began with too many containers left in the chassis for long periods of time before unloading. This makes the device unusable for several days at a time. Overall, the intermodal freight industry needs to improve turnover times.

“I don’t think it will make a difference if we put an additional 5,000 chassis into the pool,” Acors said. “We need to evaluate the entire supply chain.”

However, C & K Trucking President Mike Burton said the inability to smoothly absorb the increase in intermodal cargo begins with the lack of the right type of chassis in the most needed places.

“What we are focusing on is what we can do to increase the chassis,” says Burton. “Having to chase the streets to find the chassis undermines our productivity and causes a lot of delay.”

Panelists agreed that the industry remains fully resilient to weather events, outages, and types of shocks that typically last 30-60 days.

But as the pandemic and the subsequent unexpected surge in cargo pass through the country’s ports, “We’re out now in a year, 14 months or so and we’re having a hard time. All interests People are struggling and no one is happy with their service, “said J. Strongski, Director of International Sales at CSX Transportation.

When the pandemic began, companies were afraid of a serious recession and acted swiftly to significantly reduce staff. But when cargo volumes exploded, they realized they were terribly understaffed and are currently working to expand employment, he said.

For example, CSX has hired 300 conductors this year, more than the sum of the last two years.

Historically, the Georgia Port Authority has attempted to prepare for business fluctuations by pegging its capacity to exceed demand by 20%, Acors said.

“Well, we grew 20% last year, so we need to reassess it,” Acors said.

The port is accelerating infrastructure projects, he said, with a project to increase the capacity of a 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) at the savanna facility by 650,000.


Burton (Transportation topic Jerry Hirsch)

Panelists said these types of improvements are safe because they help meet increasing demand, whether it occurs within a year or over a longer period of time.

According to Burton, the question is whether the industry needs to take a similar approach to UPS Inc. UPS Inc. Start stockpiling equipment well before the holiday shopping season to ensure that you don’t get lame.

Such an approach spends capital on rainy day capacity. But pandemics and freight booms are very different from recurring busy seasons and regular weather events, Burton said.

“A pandemic is like a flood of 100 years. As a group, we haven’t solved it. Customers aren’t totally satisfied. We’re broken and can we fix it? I don’t know, “he said.

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