• Why no Expedia for freight shipping?

  • For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.
For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by SouthernRailway
If I want to get from point A to point B, it's easy: I just go to Expedia.com and type in the departure city and the arrival city, and flights from a variety of airlines appear, with prices, and I can book them on that site. I can also try Google, and it shows even more: every single step to get from one address to another, including driving times, public transportation and more from an address in one location to an address in another city.

Question: Why doesn't freight shipping have one website that you can check for rates, shipment times, etc. and book the shipment on one website?

For example, if I have a business and want to ship something:

1. I can go to FedEx.com or UPS.com and handle the shipment there.
2. If I want to ship by rail, I can to to nscorp.com or another railroad website and email the railroad for shipment rates. That's cumbersome.
3. I understand that there are truck brokers that I can contact to handle a truck shipment.

Why don't railroads team up and develop an Expedia-type website that you can go to, type your origin, destination, date, size/type of shipment and get full details of how to ship it--routing it via rail?

I'd figure that very few people would bother going to nscorp.com and contacting the railroad to ask for a shipment, and going to the hassle of arranging to ship by rail. Freight shippers need an easy, one-stop website where shipments can be handled.
  by Engineer Spike
The freight transportation industry is much more complex than what Fedex and UPS do. There you just have a fairly small package, which you can pay extra to have shipped faster by air.

Railroads and trucking companies are much more complex for several reasons. First, the quantity may vary from a single car, or trailer, all the way to a whole unit train. A unit train’s rates are discounted. This is because they tie on the engine at the origin, and pin it ahead at the termination. There is no switching involved, as in a single car movement.

Certain commodities are risky to move, such as hazmat. Most railroad crews are qualified for handling it, but the risk is still higher, and the company has to carry more insurance to cover a spill, or wreck. Look how MMA got buried because the damage far exceeded their coverage. In the trucking world, drivers have to have a hazmat endorsement. Beside taking the test, they do not give them out to drivers with certain charges on their rap sheet. Drivers who do have hazmat therefore get paid extra. Extra large shipments are another specialty move.

One last point about railroad shipments is the fact that multiple carriers are usually involved. If I shipped a load from LA, to Boston, for example, I would contact BNSF and UP they would give a rate. They would have to consider the possible eastern connections, and their rates. It could simply go to CSX directly, or NS, then Pan Am. Another route would be CP/D&H, then Pan Am, with a route through Canada. Even trucking companies have different lanes in which they operate. Maybe one doesn’t cover New England very often, so they might change extra. They might just charge more because of the heavy population, and the traffic. In this case, it might take longer to cover a short distance, hence a higher rate.