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IntelliTrans helps freight rail service providers improve rail operations

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Dry Bulk,

IntelliTrans, a leader in global multi-modal solutions that optimise supply chain operations for bulk and break-bulk product manufacturers, discusses the recent service disruptions of Class 1 railroads that led to revenue losses and additional freight expenses for shippers. The National Grain and Feed Association estimates that the losses to the grain industry will exceed US$100 million in 1Q22. Recently the Surface Transportation Board (STB) suggested short-term measures to address these issues, but many shippers believe these measures are not enough.

“Today, because of precision scheduled railroading (PSR) and the focus on improving Operating Ratio, railroads are struggling to handle increased volume as well as network disruptions,” said Ken Sherman, President of IntelliTrans. “Many in the rail business blame the pandemic and staff reductions, but in the five years before the pandemic, rail providers reduced their operational staffing by 25 – 43%. The results have been very impactful. The railroads have cut so much from their operating budgets via labor reductions and idling locomotives that the industry has reached critical service challenges.”

Week commencing 2 May, the STB considered several short-term measures for rail service improvements. Per an article in FreightWaves, “The board, the railroads and rail's stakeholders are under pressure to tackle tough questions that could more comprehensively affect how the railroads run their operations. These questions also touch on freight rail's long-term health, and viability in a transportation sector bent on an automated future.”

The US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, told the STB: “There is no single step available to deliver ideal freight rail service overnight. The federal infrastructure law enacted last year is a historic opportunity to transform both freight and passenger rail for the better.”

However, the answers to the problems are just as complex as the problems. The STB wants to require Class 1 railroads to submit rail service improvement plans that include the headcount needed and anticipated recovery timelines.

“Shippers can’t offload significant portions of their rail transport shipments to the trucking industry because the volumes are just staggering,” added Brian Cupp, Director of Operations, IntelliTrans. “Plus, roads would become too clogged, trucks are less environmentally friendly, and securing truck capacity in the current tight market can be more expensive.”

Technology can help solve issues in the rail industry by automating transportation operations, including visibility into transportation management and managed transportation services to augment the workforce. IntelliTrans has over 25 years of experience in the rail industry, providing managed rail transportation services to monitor, manage, and automate freight rail services. For one customer, IntelliTrans was able to reduce the rail fleet size by 5%, despite increased sales; key customer inventory was reduced by 50%; and an issue where an average of 90 misrouted or lost railcars/month was resolved.

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