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Your Frequently Asked Questions
What is Intermodal transportation?
Intermodal transportation goes back to the 18th century and predates the railways. Some of the earliest containers were those used for coal shipping on the Bridgewater Canal in England in the1780’s. Coal containers (called 'loose boxes') were soon deployed on the early railways and used for road/rail transfers (road at the time being horse drawn).
Examples of wooden coal containers being used on railways go back to the 1830's on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. In 1841, Isambard Kingdom Brunel introduced iron containers to move coal from the vale of Neath to Swansea docks. By the outbreak of the First World War the Great Eastern railway was using wooden containers to trans-ship passenger luggage between trains and sailing’s via the port of Harwich. The early 1900s saw the first adoption of covered containers, primarily for the movement of furniture and Intermodal between road and rail. A lack of standards limited the value of this service and this in turn drove standardization. In the USA such containers, known as "lift vans', were in use from early as 1911.
A freight train hauls cargo using freight cars specialized for the type of goods. Freight trains are very efficient, with economy of scale and high energy efficiency. However, their use can be reduced by lack of flexibility, if there is need of transshipment at both ends of the trip due to lack of tracks to the points of pick-up and delivery. Authorities often encourage the use of cargo rail transport due to its environmental profile.
Container trains have become the dominant type in the US for non-bulk haulage. Containers can easily be transshipped to other modes, such as ships and trucks, using cranes. This has succeeded the boxcar (wagon-load), where the cargo had to be loaded and unloaded into the train manually. The intermodal containerization of cargo has revolutionized the supply chain logistics industry, reducing ship costs significantly. In Europe, the sliding wall wagon has largely superseded the ordinary covered wagons. Other types of cars include refrigerator cars, stock cars for livestock and autoracks for road vehicles. When rail is combined with road transport, a roadrailer will allow trailers to be driven onto the train, allowing for easy transition between road and rail.
What are different types of containers?
Containers, also known as Intermodal containers or as ISO containers because the dimensions have been defined by the ISO, are the main type of equipment used in Intermodal transport, particularly when one of the modes of transportation is by ship. Containers are eight feet (2438 mm) wide by eight feet (2438 mm) high. Since introduction, there have been moves to adopt other heights, such as eight feet six inches (2591 mm), nine feet six inches (2896 mm) and ten feet six inches (3200 mm). The most common lengths are 20 feet (6096 mm) nominal or 19 feet - 10½ in (6058-mm) actual, 40 feet (12192 mm), 48 feet (14630 mm) and 53 feet (16154 mm), although other lengths exist. They are made out of steel and can be stacked on top of each other (a popular term for a two-high stack is "double stack").
On ships they are typically stacked up to seven units high. Truck, rail, container ship, or airplane can carry them. When carried by rail, containers can be loaded on flatcars or in container well cars. In Europe, stricter railway height restrictions (smaller loading gauge and structure gauge) and overhead electrification prohibit containers from being stacked two high, and containers are hauled one high either on standard flatcars or other railroad cars. Taller containers are often carried in well cars single stacked on older European railway routes where the loading gauge is particularly small.
Some variations on the standard container exist. Open-topped versions covered by a fabric curtain are used to transport larger loads. A container called a tanktainer, consisting of a tank fitted inside a standard container frame, allows liquids to be carried. Refrigerated containers are used for perishables. There is also the swap body, which is typically used for road and rail transport, as they are built too lightly to be stacked. They have folding legs under their frame so that they can be moved between trucks without using a crane.
Various non-standard container forms are commonly used. These include non-stackable open box containers, and several slightly non-standard geometries. European containers are often about two inches wider than the ISO standard although otherwise conformant, which can carry the Euro-pallet standard pallet load. Specialized containers used in Europe include containerized coal carriers, and recently 'bin-liners' - containers designed for the efficient road/rail transportation of rubbish from cities to recycling and dump sites.
Truck trailers are often used, in countries where the loading gauge is sufficient, for freight that is transported primarily by road and rail. Typically, regular semi-trailers can be used, and do not need to be specially designed.
What is double-stacked container transport?
In North America, containers are often shipped by rail in container well cars. These cars resemble flatcars but the newer ones have a container-sized depression, or well, in the middle (between the bogies or "trucks") of the car. This depression allows for sufficient clearance to allow two containers to be loaded in the car in a "double stack" arrangement. The newer container cars also are specifically built as a small articulated "unit", most commonly in components of three or five, whereby two components are connected by a single bogie as opposed to two bogies, one on each car (The photo above under "Equipment" shows an example of the new setup.) Double stacking is also used in parts of Australia. On some older railways, particularly in the United Kingdom, the use of well cars is necessary to carry single stacked large containers within the loading gauge.
Since 1984, a mechanism for Intermodal shipping known as double-stack rail transport has become increasingly common. Rising to the rate of nearly 70% of United States Intermodal shipments, it transports more than one million containers per year. The double-stack rail car's unique design also significantly reduced damage in transit, and provided greater cargo security by cradling the lower containers so their doors cannot be opened. And a succession of large, new domestic container sizes was introduced to increase shipping productivity for customers. As early as the 1970s, doublestack designs and equipment were introduced, but the cars were heavy and uneconomical to operate. In Europe the more restricted loading gage has limited the adoption of double-stack cars and New Zealand has too large a number of low tunnels and bridges to make expansion economical. However, in 2007 construction the Betuweroute was finished, a railway from Rotterdam to the German industrial heartland, which allows for double stacked containers.
How are containers moved?
Handling equipment can be designed with intermodality in mind, assisting with transferring containers between rail, road and sea. These can include:
Transtainers for transferring containers from sea-going vessels onto either trucks or rail wagons. A transtainer is mounted on rails with a large boom spanning the distance between the ship's cargo hold and the quay, moving parallel to the ship's side. Gantry cranes also known as a straddle carrier which is able to straddle rail and road vehicles allowing for quick transfer of containers. A spreader beam moves in several directions allowing accurate positioning of the cargo. Grappler Lift which is very similar to a straddle carrier. Reach Stackers are fitted with lifting arms as well as spreader beams and lifts containers to swap bodies or stack containers on top of each other.
What are container ships?
Container ships are used to transport containers by sea. These vessels are custom-built to hold containers. Some vessels can hold thousands of containers. Their capacity is often measured in TEU or FEU. These initials stand for "twenty foot equivalent unit," and "forty foot equivalent unit," respectively. For example, a vessel that can hold 1,000 40-foot containers or 2,000 20-foot containers can be said to have a capacity of 2,000 TEU. In the year 2005, the largest container ships in regular operation are registered to carry in excess of 8,000 TEUs.
A key consideration in the size of container ships is that larger ships exceed the capacity of important sea routes such as the Panama and Suez canals. The largest size of container ship able to traverse the Panama Canal is referred to as Panamax, which is presently around 5,000 TEUs. A third set of locks is planned as part of the Panama Canal expansion project to accommodate container ships up to 12,000 TEUs in future, comparable to the present Suezmax.
Very large container ships also require specialized deepwater terminals. Available container fleet, route constraints, and terminal capacity play a large role in shaping global container shipment logistics.
Why safety is good business?
Crashes are devastating in terms of fatalities and injuries, financial costs, damaged reputations, the inability to attract and retain good drivers, and general goodwill in the industry and community.
In 2005, there were 5,212 fatalities and 91,993 injuries from large truck crashes, and 335 fatalities and 14,283 injuries from bus crashes.
The average cost of a large truck crash involving a fatality is $3.6 million per crash.
A crash with injuries costs almost $200,000 per crash.
The average cost of all large truck crashes is about $91,000 per crash.
What are the main railroads in America?
There are many smaller rail line that can service different aspects from freight to people. The main cargo hauling rail lines are owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Union Pacific Rail Lines, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National.
Should I drive Intermodal or over the road?
This is as much a personal preference as anything else. There are advantages to both and you should make your decision depending on your goals. Intermodal may be more time consuming as far as getting in and out of rails and securing equipment, but it leads to much more free time to spend with friends and family since you are home nightly and on the weekends. Over the road driving is usually more profitable because your not delayed at rails and drive more throughout weekends, but your social and family life may suffer. So depending on your situation, the choice is yours to make.
What are the requirements to work for Proficient Transport?
You must have a minimum age of 23 years old with one year previous driving experience. You may not have more than 2 moving violations in the last 3 years and no convictions of major violations such as DUI, or reckless driving.
Is trucking a good job or profession to be in, even in a bad economy?
Whether the economy is good or bad, trucks will always be shipping supplies from one place to another. There is a need for truck drivers in all sorts of markets.
Proficient Transport Inc. was founded in 2004 and currently operates in the regional Intermodal markets of Chicago, Elwood Illinois, Columbus Ohio and Dallas TX as well as over the road throughout the continental 48 states.
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