Nice guys finish first

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Last year when I was invited to pay a visit to Boyd Bros. Transportation’s terminal in Birmingham, Ala., little did I know that I would be present for the announcement that would lead to the company being named the 2013 CCJ Innovator of the Year. The annual award recognizes trucking operations that demonstrate true innovation in trucking management, and the Clayton, Ala.-based flatbed hauler’s intermodal flatbed product certainly qualifies.

Flatbed shippers traditionally have been unable to take advantage of the efficiency offered by intermodal stacktrain service, but Boyd Intermodal sought to overcome that obstacle and worked with Raildecks Intermodal and BNSF to create a system for converting traditional over-the-road flatbed freight to rail. With Boyd Intermodal Raildecks, flatbed shippers now can use intermodal rail service to move their product over longer distances without traveling the nation’s interstate highway system.

The product is an open-top flatbed unit that is transported over short distances via highway on a chassis. Once inside an intermodal yard, the flatbed unit is lifted onto intermodal trains for transport to an intermodal hub, where it is loaded onto a chassis and drayed to the final consignee. Boyd Bros. has 60 double-stack units up and running and sees other options for the product, such as flatbed loads on barge or containership.

Since I witnessed the unveiling of the product, I wasn’t surprised that Boyd’s innovation eventually earned CCJ’s top honor. (See CCJ’s upcoming April 2013 issue to learn more about the Raildecks system and other innovative measures Boyd has employed throughout its company.) I already was familiar with Boyd’s culture after paying an earlier visit to its Birmingham terminal.

When I first started working at CCJ, one of my initial personal goals was to learn more about the trucking industry that I was covering. I contacted the good folks at Boyd to see if I could spend a day with one of their drivers on the road while he went about his daily tasks, just to get the feel of what life in the cab was like. Boyd welcomed me with open arms and warm hospitality and set me up with exactly what I’d requested, and it was a memorable and educational experience.

Here’s to Boyd Bros. Transportation for their deserved recognition for their intermodal innovation. If your company is doing great unique things and think others could learn from your example, feel free to check out the Innovators program at or contact [email protected].