Cool It!

Technology keeps pace with food companies' need to optimize cold chain maintenance.


The EcoTherm solution uses well-insulated 40-foot containers with similar specifications to refrigerated containers used in overseas service. The containers have a 2,400 cubic-foot capacity and can carry up to 58,000 pounds of payload.

“We like to ship dense freight with a minimum of 40,000 pounds per shipment of liquid freight,” explains Brant Somerville, marketing manager for domestic intermodal service. “Because the containers are so well-insulated, all we have to do is heat up the products at origin to normal room temperature, around 20 degrees Celsius. Products can then travel across the country without requiring further heating to protect them from cold weather.”

This kind of service is best suited for heavy grocery products, especially liquid products.

Fuller notes that about shipments using this service are protected from freezing for up to nine days without requiring any additional heating. “We are fortunate to have one of the fastest service grids in North America, allowing us to reach western Canada within four to five days.”

Because this service uses 40-foot containers, there is no need to invest in blocking and bracing costs required if 53-foot-long containers were used, notes Somerville. “Shippers can save up to $300 per container on average in blocking and bracing expenses. The freight moving in these 40-foot boxes almost always weighs out and if you were using a 53-foot box, so you would need to block and brace the shipment because it would weigh out before reaching full load capacity. This means you’d be shipping 13 feet of empty space.”

Wal-Mart Canada recently awarded CN its prestigious Innovator of the Year honor in recognition of CN’s continuing support of customers’ needs focused on leveraging rail while combining non-rail transportation solutions. CN’s truck-like and cost-saving service also delivers a soft environmental impact over that of truck transportation. “EcoTherm is designed not to require additional fuel to protect products from cold Canadian winters,” says Fuller.

Cold Train

In conjunction with BNSF Railway, Rail Logistics recently introduced a cold train service that runs from the intermodal terminal at the inland port of Quincy, WA, to Chicago. The service, called the PNW Chicagoland Express, is offered six days a week, delivering to warehouses within 200 miles of Chicago in just four days.

Using 53-foot refrigerated containers that travel on the BNSF network, the cold train is designed to transport chilled cargo, particularly apples, onions, potatoes, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and a wide range of frozen fruits and vegetables. It is a daily refrigerated intermodal pipeline connecting western growers, producers, packers, and co-ops with Midwestern cold storage companies, buyers, wholesalers and retailers. The service is expected to be competitive with truck transit in both cost and speed to market.

Rail Logistics is the company responsible for transporting containers from the port. Rail Logistics is also responsible for signing up growers, processors, purchasers, brokers, food distributors and grocery chains. —A.T.

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