Boosting intermodal service
NS’ intermodal marketing group uses the D&H South Line to move domestic container freight from Chicago’s 47th Street terminal to the railroad’s intermodal facilities in Mechanicville and Ayer. Most of that traffic is being moved for J.B. Hunt, Hub Group, and intermodal marketing companies doing business with retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, TJ Maxx, Procter & Gamble, and Best Buy, said Kevin Saunders, director intermodal marketing.
Before buying the line, NS handed off intermodal trains to CP at Binghamton. From there, CP moved the freight to Mechanicville, where much of it was passed on to Pan Am Southern for transport to Ayer.
Having three carriers involved added costs and increased the risk of a service disruption, said Chris Luebbers, group manager intermodal marketing. Now, CP is not involved in the move.
“We have control over the entire service, and it gives us the ability to provide a much more consistent and fluid ride,” Luebbers said. “Consistency is what our customers really need. This enables shippers to be more confident in using NS for access into those Northeastern and New England markets.”
NS could see some business gains at the Taylor intermodal facility. It is located near several big-box retail distributors and a Pennsylvania alcoholic beverage distribution center served mainly by truck, and NS is better situated to convert that freight to rail.
One of the biggest longer-term opportunities, Luebbers said, is the potential to expand international business at the Port of New York and New Jersey. That includes growing existing Canadian markets in Montreal and Toronto and establishing new service from the port to markets in Buffalo, Albany, and Ayer. Currently, most of that international import traffic moves by truck.
“There’s an opportunity to come up with some new services,” Luebbers said. NS, he added, is taking time to ensure smooth operations before pushing too aggressively for new business.
“Transportation, in particular, is being very diligent in the transition of operations and not trying to do too much, too soon,” Luebbers said. “I think that’s been a good approach.”