Sunday, January 14, 2007

Coast to Coast Produce Train Saves 110,000 Gallons of Fuel

Earlier I posted on a new coast-to-coast produce train terminating in Rotterdam, New York, just west of Schenectady.

Today's Albany Times Union has more. Here are the highlights:

Facility offers taste of future
Onions and apples, always in ideal environment, arrive at state-of-art distribution center
. . .

Railex is in the 12th week of an experiment to change the way produce is moved long distances. In some ways, it's a step back to the 1940s and 1950s, when refrigerated box cars moved perishables long distances.

But this is also what's called a unit train, with box cars that are never uncoupled and never pass through railyards to be switched among different trains. And unlike the trains of 50 years ago, each rail car is tracked constantly by satellite, its temperature and humidity closely monitored and adjusted to ensure conditions are ideal for each product being carried.

. . .

[Paul] Esposito, Railex's vice president for sales and logistics, said the train hasn't really increased the amount of produce flowing from the Pacific Northwest to the Northeast. Railex has just shifted it from truck to rail.

. . .

Railex's strategy is to use rail to move the produce long distances, cutting fuel costs by nearly 75 percent and giving the company an edge. The 55-car train consumes 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel on each one-way trip. Moving the same amount of produce by truck would consume about 150,000 gallons of fuel.

Recent trains have carried as much as 3,500 tons of produce each.

. . .

The coast-to-coast rail express, meanwhile, has been sold to wholesalers and growers as a cost-effective way to move their products. The trip is scheduled to take five days, about the same time as it would by truck.

But the trains have actually been making the trip in three or four days, not five. Only during the Great Plains blizzards two weeks ago did the train face delays, and even then it arrived a few hours early, Esposito said.

This answers the earlier questions I had about time of travel relative to trucking. The next question is, can Railex really undercut trucking-based distributors? And if so, by how much?

Stay tuned.

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