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Axle to Axle: Q&A

Intermodal experts discuss how to shave costs by sharing loads


What would you consider your top two challenges during 2013?  How have you been dealing with these issues? 


Gowdy:  Two shipping challenges that jump out are trailer/container capacity and the supply of dray carriers. 

The price for over-the-road transportation has always been a major factor for shippers, and intermodal is a great way to offer similar service with respect to transit time but at a slightly discounted rate. 

The challenge has been access to equipment during the peak season; very few fresh produce shippers offer year-round volume, and as a result, over-the-road and intermodal carriers struggle with providing enough equipment to satisfy the increased demand during the California produce shipping season.

In addition to equipment capacity, the supply of reliable dray carriers is also a challenge.  While it’s difficult to put a finger on the exact cause for the supply deficit, it is fair to say the economic conditions combined with a stringent regulatory environment have taken their toll.

The shortage requires shippers to provide increased lead time to secure needed equipment; in addition, there’s the potential for increased transit times due to equipment shortages at the delivery location. 

Sanford: First, it would be the ever-changing regulations in the transportation industry. California is one of our primary markets and keeping our fleet compliant with CARB [California Air Resource Board] rulings—along with finding responsible drayage partners that are also compliant—is difficult and costly.  Updating our fleet and securing additional drayage partners is an ongoing process. 

Second would be backhaul opportunities that position our equipment in key markets.  One of our strongest lanes is moving out of California to the Midwest and East Coast. 

Finding loads to move back to California is getting harder and harder; this has always been a challenge, but I think the slow economy has magnified it.  I don’t see it improving until the country gets back on its feet again and capacity tightens up across the nation. 

McKenna: The logistics industry has grown tremendously in the last few years and as a result, has become highly competitive.

The top two challenges for 2013 have been bringing on new customers and growing freight volumes with our current customer base.

Our primary strategy to achieve both of these goals is to continue educating customers and providing the best customer service in the industry.