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INDUSTRY FOCUSRAILFREIGHT


SRT helped move a 49.4m splitter from central USA to the northeast.


Bob Felix, president of SRT


Transportation Solutions, said that the years of the natural gas boom are over and this has inevitably had a negative effect on the demand for oversized rail freight movements.


“It was a good business because for every unit you would have two shipments – a turbine and a generator – and then often there would also be transformers to follow. Supply and demand has equalised now so the market has softened compared with earlier years.”


Upward trend Bill Taylor, managing partner, Colossal Transport Solutions, is much more optimistic. He believes that the US market is in good health, with an upward trend in cargoes for both petrochemical projects and the electricity transmission and distribution sector. “The economy has been doing a heck of a lot better in the last six to eight months. It has been driven by the change in administration and getting a president who is pro-business. It is a good time to be in the market and it is looking very positive.” He said that the railroads are “probably on a par with where they have always been. We understand that the dimensional market is peanuts compared with other commodity groups but they still have dedicated staff to handle our shipments.” It is generally acknowledged that some railroads – like the highway network – have ageing infrastructure. As a result, some structures such as bridges get reclassified and are no longer able to be used by heavier loads. Taylor explained that this can be overcome in some cases: “Sometimes we are able to manage the situation by switching to


96 May/June 2018


different equipment, for instance getting more axles to spread the load.” Felix said that it is obvious that containers and general cargo are the railways’ main freight market, “so in terms of the big picture, we are a very small part of their business. But we have always found them good to work with – especially the clearance managers and engineers. They go to a lot of effort to help us figure out how to move big pieces through the network.” Thomas Hoffmann, coordinator worldwide transport and projects at Germany-headquartered Kübler Spedition, said that in Europe, more shippers are beginning to see the advantages of using rail for outsize freight. “We are seeing rising demand from the shippers due to an increase in problems on


the roads – both in terms of the infrastructure and the new rules relating to escorts. So companies have to rethink their logistics strategy to get their products to the inland port and/or seaports. It is becoming more and more of a problem to get from the south of Germany to the seaports.” Road escorts used to be provided by the police in Germany but the service is now delivered by private companies. Also, three or four escort vehicles are now required whereas before it could be completed by one or two. “There are lots of movements of heavy freight every night so demand is high and this pushes the price up. Shippers can pay more for the escorts than for the use of the vehicle,” said Hoffmann.


Government cooperation “The history of the railways shows that at one time, a lot of cargo went by rail and now we are starting to feel that people are remembering the strength of the railways. And the [government-owned] railway is becoming more receptive to our needs – for instance, if they are planning major works in the next year or two, they will ask us how it will affect our operations.”


Clearance managers and engineers... go to a lot of effort to help us figure out how to move big pieces through the network. – Bob Felix, SRT Transportation Solutions


This is especially important for access to Kübler Spedition’s Mannheim terminal which is road, rail and barge connected. The multipurpose hall will house a 500-ton (453.6-tonne) capacity overhead crane, which will be delivered this summer, with operations set to commence in July. Flores from SPL said that one of the great advantages of rail in the USA is that permitting is much simpler. Road journeys need permits from every state, and often from counties within states. “For rail, just one clearance for the origin railroad is sufficient. It


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