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INTERMODAL\\\ >> 14


increase 15% for the first


quarter of 2021 compared with the same period last year, according to the railroad’s 2021 quarterly report. The American Association


of Railroads likewise shows a significant increase in workloads: For the first 27 weeks of


2021, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 6.2 million carloads, up 9% from the same point last year, and 7.5 million intermodal units, up 16.8% from the same timeframe in 2020, AAR reported. During those same six or so months of 2021, combined traffic totaled 13.7 million carloads and intermodal units, or 13.3% higher than last year. That adds some context


to another comment Farmer made to Oberman: “As


Issue 6 2021 - FBJNA


of pandemic resilience, demonstrating a high level of adaptability to meet consumer and business demands.” To slow volumes, some


railways boosted surcharges, according to the NUTC. In the second half of 2020, add-on rates for a 40-foot container surged to as much as $5,000. After they were rescinded last January, surcharges went up as much as $1,500 in April, the report says.


Momentum


At the same time, though, Williams lists several BNSF programs that have enhanced efficiency and safety: its RailPass app, which has cut truck drivers’ gate time at its intermodal facilities from three minutes to as little as 30 seconds; introducing a


“All modes are overwhelmed


creating additional pressure on TL spot volume and rates.” -- Justin Danks, Sunset Transportation


touchless gate system at its


South Seattle Intermodal Facility; and API technology that


triggers correspondence


between the railroad and freight shippers to allow them to track their freight in real- time. He


says, “We are seeing we began to see volumes


recover, we quickly scaled up our operations, bringing equipment back online and recalling furloughed employees


across our


network.” In May, The Northwestern


University Transportation Center also railed against would-be detractors of railroads’ efforts to prevent the supply chain from derailing. According to the 57-page


report, “U.S. Railroads and COVID-19: Keeping Supply Chains Moving,” trailer rail freight volumes dropped by more than 20% after the initial lockdown in April 2020. By June, the report says, the figure jumped to a “level 40% higher than at the start of 2020.” “The rail industry met the


challenge of this whiplash in demand,” the NUTC says. “The U.S. freight rail industry was an essential component


positive momentum on our network as we continue to recover from various disruptions.” Speaking of momentum,


the NUTC report says Union Pacific “improved train speed by 3%, dwell time by 8% and train length by 14% over the past year.” Williams joins a chorus


of other C-suiters who agree that playing the supply-chain blame game doesn’t do anyone any good. Dave Belter, Vice President


and General Manager of Global Transportation Management for Ryder, puts it this way: “There is culpability across multiple segments of the supply chain, but each party has to recognize their role in a more global problem as opposed to their individual challenges.” Another voice from the


trucking industry concurs. “All modes are


overwhelmed—ocean and air; port volume; rail; LTL;


...ON A WHOLE NEW SCALE DOUBLES RAIL CAPACITY TO


1 MILLION CONTAINER LIFTS PER YEAR EXTENDS REACH TO AMERICAN MIDWEST CUTS TRANSIT TIMES BY 24 HOURS MASONMEGARAIL.COM


The Eleonora Maersk calls at APM Terminals Pier 400 Los Angeles. (Maersk photo)


and


15 warehousing—creating


additional pressure on TL spot volume and rates,” says Justin Danks, Managing Director, St. Louis, Sunset Transportation, adding that he expects truckload volume and rates to remain inflated at least until Q2 2022. Like Danks,


16 >>


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