Schneider expands intermodal service with newly-designed bulk container

Updated Apr 24, 2013

IM407[1]Schneider National Bulk Carriers says it is revolutionizing the business of shipping liquid chemicals domestically. The company recently launched a bulk intermodal transportation service using what is says is a new, state-of-the-art, 40-foot tank container that can be used on the rail and over the road to haul liquid bulk chemicals across the United States. Future plans call for expansion into Canada and Mexico.

Schneider says the new solution brings with it an abundance of benefits for chemical shippers across the country.

“Shifting certain West Coast lanes from long-haul to intermodal allows us to consistently use a small group of local drivers for repeat customer deliveries which improves our delivery service,” said William Malak, vice president of North American Logistics at Nalco, an Ecolab company. “This service improves our efficiency and effectiveness to meet our industry delivery demands.”

SNF, one of the world’s largest producers of water-soluble polymers, agrees and has been using Schneider’s Bulk Intermodal service since early last fall as part of its continuing quest to secure more capacity.

“We have had issues in the past with securing enough bulk capacity, so options that help us ensure we have transportation solutions available when we need them are of great interest,” says Dave Hancock, senior logistics manager at SNF. “We also knew that we’d derive other benefits by partnering with a proactive, creative and innovative carrier like Schneider. You can definitely say this move was part of our plan for the future, and we’re already seeing results — from solid service levels to reduced greenhouse gas emissions to opportunities for cutting costs.”

Two other benefits customers will reap when they use Schneider’s Bulk Intermodal service include:

• Reliable services levels: Because local Schneider drayage drivers move customer product to and from the rail ramps, they develop relationships and deep expertise with their customers. Their ability to grow into true delivery specialists inherently improves service levels.

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• Smaller environmental footprint: Rail transportation emits three times less carbon than truck transportation and uses less fuel, making bulk intermodal the smart choice for shippers who are focused on sustainability.

“With concerns about driver capacity becoming more prominent for both carriers and shippers, we need to offer solutions for moving our customers’ products in innovative ways,” says George Grossardt, vice president and general manager of Schneider’s Bulk division. “It quickly became apparent that opportunity existed on the railroads, so we invested our time and energy into creating a solution that would allow for maximum payload and efficiency while still meeting our high safety standards.”

Because of Schneider National Bulk Carriers’ expansive network and consistent rail schedules, customers can expect their shipments to typically arrive within 24 hours of the time it would take for the load to move solely by truck.

“Truckload plus one day is very doable for most chemical shippers today,” stated Grossardt. “If they can build the extra day of transit into their supply chains, they can count on our reliable service to deliver.”

An Investment and Years in the Making

Schneider gained approval from the American Railway Association (ARA) and railroads for this first-of-its-kind service offering while working together with key providers, EXSIF Worldwide, International Transport Equipment and TransWorld Equipment to perfect the bulk intermodal service solution. By April 2012, loads started moving throughout the eastern U.S. on the CSX, and in December 2012, Schneider began shipping loads out West using the BNSF. Schneider’s bulk intermodal service is already operating at rail ramps in 10 cities across the U.S. (Cleveland; Savannah, Ga.; North Bergen, N.J.; Atlanta; Chicago; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; New Orleans; Houston and North Kearney, N.J.), with plans to expand to other sites soon.

The result of Schneider’s investment is a 40-foot container capable of hauling 5,800 gallons. Schneider currently has a fleet of nearly 100 of these unique containers and expects that number to double by the end of 2013. When loaded onto a chassis (which is then pulled by a light-weight day cab to the final destination), the unit stands 11 feet, 5 inches high and can haul close to 48,000 lb. This allows customers to load 5–6 percent more product than in a traditional over-the-road truckload move.

Liquids and chemicals have been hauled across North America by both truck and train for years; however, each mode required its own special container to move the product. This resulted in supply chain inefficiencies as product needed to be pumped into another container for last-mile transport. The new container used in Schneider’s bulk intermodal service changes the game by enabling these products to be transported across both modes using the same container. This provides shippers more flexibility and options than ever before. The most compelling design feature of this innovative container is that it is virtually the exact dimensions as an over-the-road tank-trailer, which offers tremendous convenience and familiarity to chemical shippers and their customers alike.

Though Schneider is currently approved to haul only nonhazardous chemicals right now, the company expects to gain hazmat certification from the railroads in 2013.