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Schneider National, Green Bay, Wis., has streamlined its intermodal
network by consolidating service with two primary rail providers, BNSF Railway and CSX Intermodal. The move also simplifies Schneider's container and trailer pool operations, says Dave Howland, vice president-rail management.
"A number of years ago when Schneider first began using intermodal the service basically was a trailer product, but over time that has shifted," he says. "Where we were once 70 percent trailer, we are now 70 percent container." Containers present different issues, particularly management of chassis that have to be returned to rail ramps, he notes. "As we worked through those issues, we discovered we were incurring a lot of excess handling and expense by operating out of multiple terminals in the same cities. So we consolidated our operations into single terminals within each metropolitan area." The consolidation allows Schneider greater flexibility in the use of equipment and also improves driver utilization since drivers no longer have to shuttle between ramps. "It improves our efficiency and the reliability of our service and it makes our execution a lot easier," Howland says.
As an example, Howland notes that in Boston Schneider used to operate out of three different intermodal terminals: one for trailers, one for a container pool tied to the Norfolk Southern railroad and a third for containers it operated predominately with CSX. "Trying to manage three different pools of boxes, depending on what service lane we were using, created a lot of inefficiencies for both us and our customers," says Howland. "By moving to one railroad and one intermodal facility in the Boston market, we are able to offer our customers a single container product to all points and a single trailer product to all points, and that trailer and container both operate out of the same terminal."
Improving service in every lane was a primary goal for Schneider as it planned this change in operations, Howland says. "Before, we were not always riding the best service in every given lane, but now we are," he says. "Where before we ran part of our business on the best lanes, now all of our business is on those lanes. So in all of these service lanes our customers are getting the same or better service than they were receiving under the prior system. In addition, they will almost always get better consistency in delivery because the boxes now all come on the same train to the same location, rather than being scattered among different facilities."
In several instances, BNSF and CSX designed new service solutions to accommodate Schneider's business, Howland says. Each of the railroads will see an increase in business from Schneider of approximately 20-30 percent, he adds.
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