Rail and intermodal growth to be addressed at upcoming NARS conference

This year’s theme is “Forecasts for the Future: What the Experts are Saying.”

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More than 20 railroad and shipping experts are slated to predict their industry’s futures at the 2011 North American Rail Shippers annual meeting at the Wyndham Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco, May 25-27.

This year’s theme is “Forecasts for the Future: What the Experts are Saying.”

“We’re seeing a resurgence in rail shipping – particularly domestic intermodal, as a result of driver shortages, shorter hours of service, and increasing fuel prices,” said NARS President Allan Roach. “Meanwhile, short-line railroads are looking at shortened intermodal hauls of less than 500 miles.”

Another hot agenda topic is how railroads are tapping into the Bakken oil boom.

“It’s growing by leaps and bounds, due to insufficient pipeline capacity and the flexibility that the rail network provides to crude oil shippers. Couple that with the low capital outlay to build a new unit train facility that pipelines take years to build, versus months for a new rail facility, and you have a winning combination,” noted Roach.

Class I’s and short-lines are delivering unit trains of crude oil to Oklahoma and the Gulf, according to Roach, and also bringing in trainloads of pipe and frac sand. Reuters reports as many as 10 crude-by-rail terminals are planned in the Bakken area.

Richard Thompson, executive vice president, global supply chain practice for Jones Lang LaSalle in Chicago, told LM that rail and intermodal will continue take market share away from trucks.

“One need only look at the rail hubs being built all over the country to come to this conclusion,” he said.

Instead of the customary top marketing officers, NARS attendees will hear from the chief operating officers of all major North American railroads. Their presentations will be followed by breakout sessions where attendees can converse with officials from individual railroads.

Joseph C. Szabo, administrator, Federal Railroad Administration, will provide the welcoming address. Association of American Railroads and BNSF Chairman Matt Rose will offer AAR’s perspective of the rail industry. Other headliners include U.S. Surface Transportation Board Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III and AAR President Edward Hamberger. Eric Starks, president of FTR Associates, will offer an economic outlook on carload traffic. An intermodal perspective will be provided by Mark Yaeger, president of Hub Group; Steve Palmer, VP Transportation of Lowe’s; and Terry Matthews, executive VP Sales and Marketing at J. B. Hunt.
Friday’s meeting begins with a short-line panel featuring Watco CEO Rick Webb, Reilly McCarren, president of Arkansas & Missouri, and Charles Patterson, senior vice president and chief operating officer of RailAmerica.

Additional panelists will discuss legislative issues, equipment and rail stock performance.

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About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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Article Topics

Intermodal · Logistics · Railroad · All Topics
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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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