Despite a slower September, intermodal rail transport volumes have increased significantly in 2021 as many shippers take advantage of this cost-effective mode of transport. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the current state of intermodal rail and tell you how a third-party logistics (3PL) provider can support companies that take advantage of this mode of transport.
Recent intermodal rail transport statistics
According to an article in Logistics Management, intermodal rail volumes are up in the first nine months of 2021 as compared to 2020. Specifically, intermodal containers and trailers (at 10,812,108 units) are up 9.9%, or 976,362 units, in January through September 2021.
This increased reliance on rail makes sense. For starters, rail – though slower – is much more cost-effective than OTR trucking. It also provides some relief for shippers who have had to contend with a host of trucking issues in the past two years. These issues include diminished trucking capacity due to the driver shortage and a substantial increase in spot rates for the capacity that does exist.
This is not to say that rail hasn’t had its own problems. September 2021’s volumes are down 1.9% from September 2020. The causes of this are related to congestion issues at intermodal terminals in some parts of the country. Due to warehouse congestion and very tight truck capacity further down the supply chain, some of these terminals are unable to get product moving outbound quickly enough to make room for the inbound freight.
A new intermodal rail terminal in North Carolina
There is most welcome intermodal news coming out of the Tar Heel State this month as the new CSX Connector terminal is set to open midway through October. This 330-acre intermodal terminal – the first intermodal hub to be built in Eastern North Carolina – is located in Rocky Mount, NC and is designed to handle approximately 110,000 containers per year.
The terminal will help shippers take advantage of lower-cost rail in the mid-Atlantic. Chief among these shippers are manufacturing companies that are calling North Carolina home in greater numbers. The terminal will also take some of the burden off of other intermodal terminals in the Eastern part of the country that are experiencing congestion issues.
How a 3PL can support your intermodal rail transport operations
3PL providers can support your rail movements in several ways. They can receive your products from rail cars and store them in a 3PL warehouse or transload product onto trailers for OTR distribution. Some 3PL facilities have rail siding and/or transload yards to make these processes run even smoother.
- Rail siding. When a 3PL warehouse has railroad track running alongside it, special rail siding doors can allow trains to unload from boxcars straight into the warehouse. The inverse also applies for the loading of boxcars with outbound product from the warehouse.
- Transload yard. Center-beam cars can be brought to a 3PL’s transload yard. Once in the yard, the products can be loaded onto flatbed trucks which can transport the product inside the warehouse via drive-through doors, or the trucks can head out straightaway and deliver the products to the destination. Some 3PL facilities offer outdoor storage in addition to warehousing for heartier products such as lumber.
At Kanban Logistics in Eastern North Carolina, we have both rail siding and a transload yard at our Rocky Mount facility, which is part of our local network of warehouses totaling over 1 million square feet of space. This Rocky Mount facility is served by CSX rail and can support your movements into and out of the new CSX intermodal terminal. In fact, Kanban is recognized as a premier provider in CSX’s TransFLO program, which transloads commodities between rail cars and trucks in the Eastern U.S. and Canada.
To learn more about Kanban’s ability to support your rail movements on the East Coast, contact us today.