• Hey freight trains dont make money either...

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

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  by Littleredcaboose
 
With the exception of some hot freight trains like coal ...even intermodal does not break even all the time....Container trains run empty west because intermodal is mostly imports from Asia. General Freight trains run also half empty because boxcars and other cars travel hundreds of miles back to the shipper for a load. Truckers on the other hand run to the nearest load via loadboards at truck stops.
  by CNJ
 
Littleredcaboose wrote:With the exception of some hot freight trains like coal ...even intermodal does not break even all the time....Container trains run empty west because intermodal is mostly imports from Asia. General Freight trains run also half empty because boxcars and other cars travel hundreds of miles back to the shipper for a load. Truckers on the other hand run to the nearest load via loadboards at truck stops.
Mr Littleredcaboose, your post is rather lacking in clarity. Would you care to elucidate???
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Hopefully, this material will find a home over at Railroad Operations Forum. There is actually quite a bit of foundation to the concept Mr. Caboose has set forth.
  by HoggerKen
 
There is no way any road hauls manifest unless it makes a buck. We swim in manifest every weekday night originating 100 to 150 loads. I know for a fact, a single car of bean meal, DDGs, or Ethanol, is a much higher rate than any unit train. Because those rates are so competitive, they are highly confidential, on a need to know basis.

Now HOW a railroad handles those cars, their terminal costs, and train patterns, is the key. Things such as terminal dwell factor in very heavily. I will use an example of a 6000 cuft. of bean meal billed Fairmont, MN to Ft. Worth quite a typical situation. The car we will call TILX 650505 will be pulled from the plant by a local who services 8 customers a day. Once done, a relay crew will bring the train without switching or handling, 65 miles to Mason City. On arrival at about 2000 hours, the cars are switched out by blocks, and TILX 650505 departs town before 1 (usually 2330 hours). In twelve hours, it has been handled by 3 crews, and is blocked for Ft. Worth. At 0600 hours, it arrives in Des Moines, and is added to other Ft. Worths cars originated in Iowa by the inbound crew, no other terminal work. The air is held on the cars til departure.

MCPFW arrives in Des Moines later in the day, and pulls the Ft. Worth cars, and handles them direct to Ft. Worth working no other terminals en-route (train originates on the CP in St. Paul). Thus far, TILX 650505 was handled by one local, one yard job, and one road crew in the 800 miles it has traveled, and it's connections avoided two major terminals, and two days dwell time over the conventional method.

Does that car and it's ilk make money? You bet it does.


If the carriers did not make money, it would never run.
  by ENR3870
 
HoggerKen wrote:

If the carriers did not make money, it would never run.
Shhhh, don't tell Hunter that CN isn't making any money, I'm out of a job then.
  by Ken W2KB
 
Moving empty cars is a necessary part of the cost of business of moving loaded cars. Doesn't mean that the railroads don't optimize all car movements to minimize cost and maximize profits.
  by HoggerKen
 
Ken W2KB wrote:Moving empty cars is a necessary part of the cost of business of moving loaded cars. Doesn't mean that the railroads don't optimize all car movements to minimize cost and maximize profits.
Absolutely Ken. It boils down to three groups, company owned pools of cars, private cars in pools, and private cars in designated service.

In my example, TILX 650505 is leased from Trinity to Cargill, which provides cars for loading at several plants. balancing the availability of empties at each plant, is up to Cargill. Getting them to where they are needed without delay can be a chore (I recently saw several cars billed and re-billed en-route twice prior to actually arriving at a destination to accomplish this). Their neighbor in Fairmont, CHS, loads bean meal, and utilizes their own fleet of CHSX hoppers, a leased fleet of AEX types, and UP system hoppers. Since CHS only has two plants, it only has to balance supply based on those two location, and depends on UP to fill their needs.

The empty miles on private cars, are a blessing or curse. Key is making as many trips as possible with the cars (Carriers who want the business can and do tailor service to keep them moving). The more trips, the more cost of the car can be spread out. Thus it was with the Elevators along the Rock Island in the early 80's. They had their own fleet of hoppers (those pink Klemme, West Bend, and Albert City Co-op types as an example), and they had to make so many trips in order to pay for themselves. Track speed and terminal capacity would delay them to the point of loosing money. But still it was far better than to wait for Rock system hoppers to show up, if they ever did.

Carriers system pool cars can also be flexible enough to have them available depending on the service desired by the customer. Centralizing supply seems to work fairly well. But still, the balancing act has flaws. During busy times, single covered hoppers may have been spoken for well before the previous load has arrived at it's destination. A lot of private fleets don't look that far into the future.

The ability of a carrier to commit the administration of car control, and planning service to limit terminal handling and dwell, can pay off in the long run, and accomplishes the key driver of keeping a customer satisfied.

Ahh but the best laid plans of mice and men!
  by HoggerKen
 
pablo wrote:I have no idea what this post is about or why it is here. Let's let the little crummy troll elsewhere...

Dave Becker
Troll? I think his post was genuine, although the venue may not have been appropriate. God forbid we become humans and make mistakes. Where will it end?
  by QB 52.32
 
Littleredcaboose wrote:With the exception of some hot freight trains like coal ...even intermodal does not break even all the time....Container trains run empty west because intermodal is mostly imports from Asia. General Freight trains run also half empty because boxcars and other cars travel hundreds of miles back to the shipper for a load. Truckers on the other hand run to the nearest load via loadboards at truck stops.
Finding backhauls, no matter the mode, carrier or commodity is an issue in transportation. Those that succeed reap the benefit. However, much of the specialized equipment or trains (such as unit coal trains) run empty for half of the round trip and there are also "structural" imbalances, such as the Asian merchandise transportation market or the domestic mid-America to the coasts transportation market, no matter the transportation industry or carrier. Since deregulation, railroads have had the opportunity to intensely focus upon each of their businesses, consisting of 3 general networks: auto/intermodal; carload merchandise; and bulk unit trains (primarily comprised of coal and grain), and to manage them as such, each with their own operational and market characteristics, to squeeze costs out , to maximize revenue and, therefore, drive up profitability (or in railroad finance, "contribution") and return on investment (which is very important for today's railroad managers). I'd venture to say that after 30 years they've done just that and are making money in all 3 businesses. And, with regard to finding backhauls, the bottom line for any transportation mode or carrier is to work to find them and, in those situations where there's nothing available, to learn how to get that empty equipment back for another load ASAP!
  by HoggerKen
 
Backhauls in a lot of equipment is not possible. Grain and grain products only go one way. Same with fertilizer and many chemicals. Products like cement, cannot be hauled in the same cars as sand or roofing granules without having to clean the car first. Backhauls in box cars or intermodal may be possible, it may not be probable.
  by QB 52.32
 
For specialized equipment, it is very difficult to find backhauls. And, the nature of railroading with its network-based rigidity vs. highway transportation makes it difficult, too. But, one does see examples of how the railroad industry attempts to deal with equipment utilization/backhauls, most notably with TTX and their pools of boxcars, gondolas, intermodal equipment and autoracks. Trailer and container-based intermodal offers more flexibility to some degree like over-the-road truckers, but, are dependant upon the overall flows of freight in the markets in which they serve. Domestically, freight is generally produced in mid-America and flows to the consuming populations on the coasts. Internationally, merchandise flows in to the US, though bulk commodities such as agricultural products and minerals flow from N. America.
  by HoggerKen
 
Iowa for example has three lifts in the state, all quite small. One belongs to Iowa Interstate in Newton. One belongs to a co-op in Jefferson, loading containers of tofu for export, and one on the CN/IC in Council Bluffs. Yes, finding products to fill containers for backhauls is at times a bit difficult.

In looking at the consists of manifests last night, not just in Iowa, it seems a majority of cars were bulk commodities which utilize cars which cannot be used in backhaul. Of the box cars I saw, the loadings were mostly customer specific, wood (in private cars), recycled paper, bulk paper (private cars), canned goods, salt (in private cars), packing material, insulation, and bulk tomatoes. One exception is Seneca foods, which uses system boxes. They haul canned goods out, and backhaul packaging material and seeds inbound (they are shipping peas like they are going out of style right now).

I think the best example of backhaul logistics was with SP/WC with their taconite trains. After being emptied in Colorado, they would load at a nearby coal mine, and bring it to Wisconsin. There the cars were unloaded and cleaned in Butler, and sent for loading taconite again in nearby Minnesota. You don't see such utilization like that today. Most coal buckets are privates anyway.
  by QB 52.32
 
Yeah, that SP/WC coal/taconite move was sweet. IIRC, neither move would have been feasible economically without the other. Don't know if you recall, but back in the late '70's or early '80's ATSF developed a container that was designed to haul dry freight and bulk commodities...though, it never went anywhere for one reason or another. I'm guessing that the idea with this concept was to increase flexibility to provide better utilization. On the east coast, where inbound truckload freight is imbalanced with few outbound truckloads, package carrier business is imbalanced in the opposite outbound direction and has provided eastern carriers with some backhauls for their intermodal equipment, and, consequently, good returns on the business. Equipment utilization is no different for all transporation modes and companies...I remember flying the Dutch charter airline Martinair who's planes were designed to haul freight one way and passengers back the other way (or was that livestock one way and humans the other?, lol).
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