Through that contract, the company learned there was a huge untapped market for rail coming out of the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest. According to Lerner, there were more than 200,000 truckloads of produce shipping east from Washington a year and about 10,000 of them were going to the Chicagoland area.
Cold Train’s first voyage was in May 2010 and during peak produce shipping season, it shipped between 40 and 50 loads a week.
The company also provides door to door as far east as Cincinnati. “It takes about five days from central Washington to Cincinnati,” says Lerner. “We compete head to head with trucks, and in fact, we’re a little faster.”
Cold Container Emerges
Before Rail Logistics began running its Cold Train, it first identified an opportunity in the container market and designed a product to meet their customers’ needs.
“At the time there were no refrigerated containers anywhere in the United States,” says Lerner. “They were only shipping refrigerated intermodal trailers on flatcars.”
Rail Logistics spec’d the container body to Hyundai, while Carrier Transicold provided the CARB compliant refrigeration unit.
“They’re lightweight, all aluminum and have a specially designed fuel tank that’s 860 pounds lighter than a steel fuel tank,” says Lerner. “It can hold up to 26 pallet positions and runs as low as -10 F.”