37. Railroad Freight Movement


Welcome back to our lesson on railroad freight movement. Upon completion of this lesson, learners should be able to discuss the merits and limitations of freight transportation via rail, describe the different types of freight rail cars, and describe the characteristics of a unit train. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of rail freight movements. Rail provides good fuel economy and is relatively environmentally friendly. Think about a railroad train. It may be a mile long, made up of dozens of cars. But unlike over the road trucks that make it have a one to one relationship between a container and an engine, railroad cars carrying freight are pulled by a single engine or set of engines with a freight moving freely on the rails.
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Rail freight is primarily used for bulk, low-value commodities such as coal, lumber, etc, and large heavy products such as finished automobiles. Rail may be used to move coal from mines to power plants or trees from remote forest lands to paper mills or lumber yards. Dependable long distance movement of large quantities of freight is characteristic of rail freight movements. We just discussed how one or a few engines can pull dozens of cars. Think about the labor savings of this set up over, over the road transport where a small crew in a rail operation, an engineering and assistant, can handle the equivalent of what would require dozens of drivers pulling tractors. Not as cost-effective and shipper friendly for small loads as other modes is rail with its emphasis on bulk shipments. Rail typically hasn’t set up the infrastructure to handle small, partial carload movements. And rail is limited to flow along the rail infrastructure. [COUGH] Wherever there’s a rail line, rail can move. Wherever there’s not a rail line, rail can’t move.
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Intramodal shipments, which we’ll talk about in another lesson, help extend the reach of rail to other modes via standardized containers. We’ll talk about that later. Railroad freight movement is primarily focused on carload freight movements. While a train may be hauling multiple types of freight for multiple shipments, generally a single car will be dedicated to a single shipper. Unit trains or movements of batches of cars are preferred in rail freight. The most efficient use of a train would be for the entire train to go to a single destination from a single origin, travelling together as a unit. This is what’s meant by a unit train. However, when there may be 70 cars or more in a train, there are limited number of organizations that can effectively handle that level of volume arriving at a single time.
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The average length of freight haul over rail is 720 miles with a average train speed of 22 miles per hour. And it may be up to 35 miles per hour for priority movement trains.
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Let’s take a look at an example of a unit train. Going back in my career several decades to when I worked supporting the Tropicana juice train moves, so let’s use that unit train as an example. Where the train started with the orange juice processing plant in Bradenton, Florida. And it moved across the country to its destination in Kearny, New Jersey, outside New York City to supply the northeast with oranges, which was very popular up there.
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The entire goods, the entire train of orange juice, moved as a unit with only Tropicana product moving. No other shipper’s product moving with it, no other commodities, etc.
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Once the goods arrived in Kearny, New Jersey, they were quickly cross-stocked and moved to multiple distribution channels. To retailers, wholesalers, distributors, etc and even route delivery trucks.
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A unit train of approximately 70 insulated refrigerator cars and some non-refrigerated cars leaves Bradenton every three days or so.
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The return car movements however do not move as a unit train.
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The rail cars, once they arrive in Kearny, New Jersey, they would be brought alongside the dock in groups of seven or more at a time
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from the unit train of 70, unloaded and used as needed. So it would take several days, potentially, to handle the entire 70 car unit train. And rather than waiting for the entire 70 cars to be ready for shipment back to Florida, the rail companies would pick up the cars on a daily basis as they moved south with other shippers.
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One thing we haven’t talked about is railroad car ownership options. Railroad cars themselves could be short term leased from the rail company or other organizations, long term leased, or even owned by specific companies.
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In this lesson we have discussed the merits and limitations of freight transportation via rail, described the different types of freight rail cars and described the characteristics of a unit train. Thank you for watching and we’ll see you on the next lesson. [MUSIC]

Jim Rohn Sứ mệnh khởi nghiệp