For a little more than a year Schneider National, Greenbay, Wis., has been running a dedicated intermodal train from the Ohio Valley to Kansas City, Mo., with interchange service at Kansas City to points west. "We felt that the Ohio Valley was underserved in terms of having intermodal ramps and we believed that by establishing a ramp in Marion, Ohio, we would be able to provide a very cost effective solution for our customers," says Steve Van Kirk, vice president for intermodal commercial management at Schneider.
That has proved to be the case. The six-days-a-week, scheduled service has shown solid growth since its inception, drawing freight that previously moved over the road and intermodal shipments that would otherwise have to be drayed several hundred miles to the nearest ramp in Chicago. "Avoiding Chicago is especially important during peak times of the year when you are likely to run into a lot of congestion there," Van Kirk says. Customers using the Marion to Kansas City route are able to cut as much as one full day from their transit times, he says.
The dependability of the service also is a plus, says Van Kirk. The 700-mile route traverses Kansas City Southern and CSX rail lines, but "it is a seamless steel-wheel interface, which makes the service very effective and reliable," he says. Since it is a dedicated train, the service is completely under Schneider's control, another plus for customers, he says. "Our customers run the gauntlet, from suppliers supporting automotive assembly operations to consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers. It's a good mix of industries and companies, and the larger freight base that we have gives the service the stability that these customers want."
The ramp is located in the Marion Industrial Complex, which offers warehousing and yard facilities in addition to full-service intermodal capabilities. Currently, one train a day runs in each direction, eastbound and westbound. "Freight demand overall is a little soft right now, but when it picks up again we will evaluate whether we need to add additional capacity," he says. Schneider also is looking at extending the dedicated train concept to other lanes. "We have done some preliminary analyses of certain other markets where we believe this would be a good solution and I expect we will move forward with that at a future point."
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