Growing Freight Rail IntelliConference Series
The relationships between shippers and railroads have often been problematic. Excellent service and rail industry growth, on the other hand, is in both camps’ best interests. Regulatory and adjudicatory bodies provide venues for resolving conflicts surrounding service and pricing, but they seldom act on the root causes of issues.
What framework for alignment among railroads and shippers can we establish?
Session 1: Aligning on Common Interests
- What are railroads’ and shippers’ common interests?
- Where are these common interests being advanced and where are they being stifled?
- What benefits would accrue to railroads and to shippers when these common interests are advanced more productively?
- Which of the parallel interests have contentious elements?
- Where is the common ground within each of these seemingly opposing interests?
- What path for resolving these contentious elements can we implement?
- What are the opportunities that could be unleashed by resolving each issue?
- What new pricing methods might railroads establish to serve customers better, attract volume, and increase profitability for all?
- How can communications between shippers and rail providers be improved to ensure the best possible freight service?
- What opportunities revealed by this IntelliConference do we want to advance in the next IntelliConference Round?
Session 2: Improve Railroad-Customer Relations
- How can a positive customer service ethic be instilled in academic and rail industry training programs?
- What contractual or “paper” barriers are presently inhibiting growth?
- What would the dissolution of these barriers require?
- Are there any interested parties who might be hurt by said dissolution? If so, can workable adjustments be made?
- What adjustments to multi rail line shipment pricing would attract shippers to expand their use of rail?
- What improvements to railcar supply would enable shippers to expand their use of rail?
- Where is rail service decreasing or inadequate and what do we want to do about this?
Intermodal containerization has evolved as a primary growth area in land freight transportation. Railroads often require customers to load truck trailers that are transferred onto railcars in lieu of providing origination-to-destination rail “carload” freight service. This limits the weight and volume that can be carried by a railcar to that of a truck trailer that has to observe local road limits. Even double stacking containers on railcars utilizes far less than the full capacity of rail.
How can stakeholders work together to build a rail carload system that best supports the nation’s sustainable prosperity?
Session 1: Align on the Background and the Opportunity
1. What stakeholder groups should be included in this dialogue to ensure that all perspectives are considered?
2. Who are the most knowledgeable representatives of each stakeholder group that should be invited to participate?
3. What are each stakeholder group’s needs and concerns that should be factored into the optimal rail carload system?
4. How has the economic and transportation environment evolved since WWII and how well has the rail carload system adapted to these changes?
5. What are the current supply chain trends and how do they impact the environment, the economy, and the quality of community life?
6. What technological, economic, social, environmental, and/or demographic trends are on the horizon that could impact supply chain dynamics and how might they influence how we think about an optimal rail carload system?
7. How do we want the economic and supply chain environment to evolve over the next 20-30 years and how well positioned is the rail carload system to meet these advances?
8. What factors, e.g., volume, pricing, modal share, profitability, revenue/cost ratio, turn times, etc. help to define the status of rail carload transportation?
9. What are the benefits of an expanded rail carload transportation system and to which stakeholder groups to they apply?
10. What are the disadvantages of an expanded rail carload transportation system and to which stakeholder groups to they apply?
11. What specific innovations should be considered as elements of an optimized rail carload system?
12. What operational improvements have to be made within Class I railroads to support Class II and III railroad management in serving smaller shippers?
13. What facilities have to be developed to physically accommodate more traffic interchanging to and from branch lines, Class II and III railroads and other components of the feeder network?
Session 2: Reinventing the Rail Carload System—What are the Design Elements and the Action Plan?
Rail is a capital-intensive industry. Rail equipment is more expensive, higher capacity, and longer lived than trucks and trailers and demands financial analysis that recognizes the collateral profile of each infrastructure element.
What is the optimal blend of public and private capital funding for rail infrastructure?
- How can investors participate in a long-term growth business plan for railroads?
- Where are the opportunities to shape public sector programs like the Rail Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, so that they seed private sector capitalization?
- How can Class II and III railroads, smaller rail shippers, and other transportation providers gain full access to expansion capital?
- What innovations in public- and private-sector financing of rail projects can be developed?
- How can State Infrastructure Banks and other programs be expanded or created to fund multi-state infrastructure investments?
- How can the existing system of railcar economics be enhanced to improve service, capacity, and profitability?
- How can we expedite decision making and funding on projects like the “Howard Street Tunnel” or the recently approved “Boone Tunnel”?