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Major Investment Plans for American Rail Networks

With forecasts of significant growth in the quantity of goods that will be transported in the coming years it is vital that the intermodal freight networks continue to be developed and upgraded in order to be able to accommodate that increase. After enduring a period of decline the American rail network has seen a return to relevance in recent years as the road transport that had largely displaced rail became much more expensive. This focus on efficiency in freight transport has inspired redevelopment and expansion of the American rail networks as the cost effectiveness of rail freight continues to surpass trucking costs. This development of the American rail networks and freight handling facilities is being backed by an investment of $24.5 billion in the rail networks by the nation’s major freightrailroad companies. Of this, $13 billion is earmarked for capital expenditure to be used for the enhancement of their physical infrastructure and safety systems1 that is necessary to keep pace with the increased capacity being demanded of the system. This expenditure is being used in part to create more intermodal freight terminals to facilitate an ever greater efficiency of train to truck transfers. There are also significant investments being made by many companies in new rolling stock with the aim… read more »

The Key to the Cost Effectiveness of Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal shipping is undeniably the most cost effective way to transport bulk cargo because of its integrated use of sea, rail and truck transport to deliver goods in the quickest, most direct way possible. The development of freight handling technologies that allow individual cargos to be tracked from their source to their delivery have contributed to the effectiveness and speed with which cargo can be transported across large distances, but it is the standardization of shipping containers that makes this efficient handling of freight possible. Since their worldwide acceptance in the 1970s, shipping containers have increased the efficiency of transporting goods by reducing handling times when unloading ships and reloading the same cargo onto trains or trucks. The containerization of bulk freight made it possible to develop port facilities that can handle vast numbers of containers in a single day, with the world’s largest port, Shanghai, estimated to have handled 31.7 million containers in 2011 alone1. Alongside the development of increasingly efficient infrastructure in modern ports, the growth in the size of container ships has seen the average transport vessel able to carry 8,000 containers at once, and may transport as many as 200,000 containers in a single year2. Obviously the key to all of this efficiently handled cargo… read more »

The History of Shipping Containers

People have been shipping cargo around the world for thousands of years, and the logistics of loading, unloading, and reloading goods, has always proved to be costly, time consuming and inefficient. The huge increase in the amount of cargo during the 20th century meant that solutions had to be found for the problems of cargo handling, and this drive towards greater efficiency and cost effectiveness led to the development of the intermodal freight networks that crisscross the globe. The key to the development of the most efficient cargo handling system ever conceived, however, was the invention of the shipping container. Contrary to popular belief, the shipping container wasn’t invented by the Chinese. In fact, the first shipping container design was patented in America by Malcolm McLean1 in 1956. McLean was the owner of the fifth largest trucking company in the United States, and he saw the truck loading and unloading process as being costly because of its inefficiency. This led to his development of pre-loadable containers that could be set onto trucks as a unit, considerably reducing handling time, and therefore costs. Early attempts at developing this into a standardized system for freight handling were unsuccessful until the U.S. Navy… read more »