Schneider National's intermodal division is capitalizing on a new CSX Intermodal ramp that opened last fall at Chambersburg, Pa. This new, 114-acre terminal consolidates traffic that previously moved via ramps at Harrisburg, Pa., and Baltimore, Md.
Since opening in September of last year, volume at the ramp steadily has increased, pulling freight from a market area that includes Northern Virginia, Maryland and parts of western and northern Pennsylvania. Schneider is responsible for a significant portion of that increase. Its Chambersburg volume in the first four months of this year was roughly equal to its total volume in this market in 2007, says Steve Van Kirk, vice president-intermodal commercial management at Schneider. "Our volume is increasing very rapidly," says Van Kirk. "Moving the ramp to Chambersburg, which is about 60 miles south of Harrisburg, shortens the dray for customers in Maryland and Virginia and has enabled us to provide them more reliable service at a better price point."
Last fall Schneider designated CSX as its primary rail carrier in the Eastern U.S., with BNSF being the primary carrier in the West. "CSX saw that there was a lot of potential at Chambersburg to serve shippers in this distribution area and by concentrating our business there, we are able to differentiate our service from other competitive options," he says. "The Chambersburg ramp creates a much better solution for customers, especially those in Maryland and Northern Virginia."
Trains on the CSX line that serves Chambersburg travel to and from Chicago, with connections there to the West Coast. Schneider is moving "a fair amount of transcontinental freight" on the lane, Van Kirk says. Currently Schneider's freight at the ramp is very close to being balanced between inbound and outbound, "though historically we have more Eastbound freight," he says. "Anytime you are shipping into the Northeast, getting balanced volumes is always a challenge."
The rapid growth in this market is at least partially attributable to shippers that are looking for lower-cost alternatives to over-the-road transportation as the price of fuel continues to spiral. "Shippers always have seen a bit of a discount by shipping intermodal, but with fuel prices at current levels, that savings is accelerating," says Van Kirk. "A lot of companies that may have had reservations about shipping intermodal in the past are looking at the service improvements that have occurred in recent years and looking at the value created by some of these ramps like Chambersburg. They are agreeing that the intermodal value proposition is extremely strong."
Creating freight density and a strong intermodal value proposition at a location "that maybe didn't have the best intermodal service in the world," is an opportunity that Schneider welcomes, says Van Kirk. "We are always looking for ways to provide shippers a good service solution and enable them to save a little money."
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