Quest for Quality Rail/Intermodal: Full steam ahead

Despite an uneven economy and an atmosphere of political uncertainly that has put several freight transportation modes on shaky ground, shippers continue to find that rail and intermodal service providers are chugging forward, improving service, and creating value despite the well-publicized challenges.

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Despite an uneven economy and an atmosphere of political uncertainly that has put several freight transportation modes on shaky ground, shippers continue to find that rail and intermodal service providers are chugging forward, improving service, and creating value despite the well-publicized challenges.

As Group News Editor Jeff Berman reported in June as part of his Annual Rail/Intermodal Roundtable, even though rail carload and intermodal volumes have still not caught up to 2006 levels, they’re certainly heading in the right direction. “What’s more, those volume levels are on solid footing,” says Berman, “with North American Class I railroads upping the ante annually on their respective capital investment plans, setting their sites on building out networks, and acquiring new equipment.”

While the market has watched the commodity mix on the carload side change in recent years, railroads have shown their versatility in creating high-value services in new and emerging markets, while intermodal—especially on the domestic side—continues to chug along at a healthy clip despite the still unsettled economic news.

Our top rail analysts contend that as more shippers face challenges in securing motor freight capacity, it appears certain that they’ll be more willing to make the secular shift from truck to rail, and figure out how to manage those longer transit times.

“However, railroads must continue investing in line-haul and terminal capacity to accommodate this intermodal growth—that’s probably the biggest obstacle over the long term,” says Accenture’s Brooks Bentz. “But any way you look at it, the conversion of highway traffic to rail has a huge upside, not only for shippers, but also for truck lines seeking to reduce operating expenses.”

According to the readers of Logistics Management, the continued investment momentum is certainly paying off for the 10 service providers that will be stepping up to the podium to receive Quest for Quality gold this year.

In the Rail/Intermodal Service category this year we find perennial top performer Triple Crown Services posting a top weighted average of 47.44, with Union Pacific pulling up on its heels with a weighted average of 46.38. Triple Crown put up top marks in On-time Performance (11.75), Value (10.44), and Customer Service (9.12), while BNSF logged highest scores in Information Technology (8.03) and Equipment & Operations (9.11).

In this year’s Intermodal Marketing category we have five companies walking away with Quest for Quality gold. J.B. Hunt Intermodal posted an impressive 49.45 weighted average to lead the category. J.B. Hunt posted best marks in Information Technology (8.05), Customer Service (9.78), and Equipment & Operations (10.06). Yusen Logistics, which posted a notable 49.02 weighted average, placed the highest in On-time Performance (12.53) and Value (10.20).


2013 Quest for Quality Winners Categories

NATIONAL LTL | REGIONAL LTL | TRUCKLOAD | RAIL/INTERMODAL | OCEAN CARRIERS | PORTS | 3PL | AIR CARRIERS and FREIGHT FORWARDERS


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Not Your Grandfather's Intermodal Transportation of freight in containers was first recorded around 1780 to move coal along England’s Bridgewater Canal. However, "modern" intermodal rail service by a major U.S. railroad only dates back to 1936. Malcom McLean’s Sea-Land Service significantly advanced intermodalism, showing how freight could be loaded into a “container” and moved by two or more modes economically and conveniently. As with all new technologies, there were problems that slowed the growth, which influenced many potential customers to shy away from moving intermodal.
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