Fresh Needs Fast—Rail is Up to the Challenge

In this month’s edition of Food Logistics , editors discuss an increasing desire to move more food products on rail. The most revealing aspect of this need was recently reported by the North American Produce Transportation Working Group (NAPTWG). Their...


We are also finding additional value-added services provided by refrigerated express unit trains in being able to chill products in transit. In an interview with one of the largest processors of fruits and vegetables, chilling in transit was a time saver as well as a significant reduction in storage, handling, and utility cost.

Rail operators are countering these long held beliefs that rail cannot compete with over-the-road truckers. As speed to market is a top priority, rail operators are investing heavily in improving infrastructure. Logistics operators are partnering with rail operators through the use of highly efficient trans-load and cross dock buildings. The use of refrigerated boxcars that can hold temperature in highly consistent and controlled ways while being monitored as often as required has been shown to be much more reliable than typical highway refrigerated trailers.

Express rail can run as fast as long-haul truckers. Higher volumes of products can be moved with less labor. Double-stack and boxcar economies can move more tonnage at less fuel, particularly with new locomotive and fuel technologies. As reefer capacity is becoming more of a strategic issue and operating challenge, it may be time to look at the often overlooked use of rail.

 

Nick Pacitti is a partner with Sterling Solutions and is a co-founding member of Georgia Tech’s Integrated Food Chain Center.

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