Schneider National launches first-of-its-kind bulk intermodal service

by Canadian Shipper

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Schneider National Bulk Carriers has launched a new bulk intermodal transportation service that will use a new state-of-the-art 40-foot tank container to haul liquid bulk chemicals across the US via both rail and over-the-road. The company has also announced future plans to expand the service into Canada and Mexico.

“Shifting certain West Coast lanes from long-haul to intermodal allows us to consistently use a small group of local drivers for repeat customer deliveries which improves our delivery service,” said William Malak, vice-president of North American Logistics at Nalco, an Ecolab company. “This service improves our efficiency and effectiveness to meet our industry delivery demands.”

“We have had issues in the past with securing enough bulk capacity, so options that help us ensure we have transportation solutions available when we need them are of great interest,” says Dave Hancock, senior logistics manager at SNF, one of the world’s largest producers of water-soluble polymers, which has been using Schneider’s Bulk Intermodal service since early last fall. “We also knew that we’d derive other benefits by partnering with a proactive, creative and innovative carrier like Schneider. You can definitely say this move was part of our plan for the future, and we’re already seeing results – from solid service levels to reduced greenhouse gas emissions to opportunities for cutting costs.”

Schneider officials also point to two other benefits for customers using the service: reliable service levels and a smaller environmental footprint by shifting some freight movement from road to rail.

“With concerns about driver capacity becoming more prominent for both carriers and shippers, we need to offer solutions for moving our customers’ products in innovative ways,” says George Grossardt, vice-president and general manager of Schneider’s Bulk division. “It quickly became apparent that opportunity existed on the railroads, so we invested our time and energy into creating a solution that would allow for maximum payload and efficiency while still meeting our high safety standards.”

Schneider also says customers can expect their shipments to typically arrive within 24 hours of the time it would take for the load to move solely by truck.

“Truckload plus one day is very doable for most chemical shippers today,” Grossardt said. “If they can build the extra day of transit into their supply chains, they can count on our reliable service to deliver.”

Schneider gained approval from the American Railway Association (ARA) and railroads for the first-of-its-kind service offering while working together with EXSIF Worldwide, International Transport Equipment and TransWorld Equipment. By April 2012, loads started moving throughout the eastern US on the CSX, and in December, Schneider began shipping loads out West using the BNSF. Schneider’s bulk intermodal service is already operating at rail ramps in 10 cities across the US (Cleveland; Savannah, Ga.; North Bergen, N.J.; Atlanta; Chicago; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; New Orleans; Houston and North Kearney, N.J.), with plans to expand to other sites soon, according to company officials.

The 40-foot container used as part of the service is capable of hauling 5,800 gallons. Schneider currently has a fleet of nearly 100 of the unique containers and expects that number to double by the end of the year. When loaded onto a chassis (which is then pulled by a light-weight day cab to the final destination), the unit stands 11 feet, 5 inches high and can haul close to 48,000 lbs., allowing customers to load 5-6% more product than in a traditional over-the-road truckload move.

Though liquids and chemicals have been hauled across North America by both truck and train for years, each mode required its own special container to move the product. “This resulted in supply chain inefficiencies as product needed to be pumped into another container for last-mile transport,” Schneider officials noted. “The new container used in Schneider’s bulk intermodal service changes the game by enabling these products to be transported across both modes using the same container. This provides shippers more flexibility and options than ever before.”

Schneider calls the container’s dimensions its “most compelling design feature,” as they are nearly identical to an over-the-road tank-trailer, “which offers tremendous convenience and familiarity to chemical shippers and their customers alike.”

Though Schneider is currently approved to haul only nonhazardous chemicals right now, the company expects to gain hazmat certification from the railroads in 2013.

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