Intermodal Insights: What We Learned From Summer 2018


It all started when…

The May/June issue of Intermodal Insights is published and packed with the most recent industry news on the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) Operations and Maintenance Business Meeting, the chassis market, implications of the ELD mandate, and more. Here are the highlights we gathered for our intermodal community.

IANA Operations and Management Business Meeting

  • Prevalent industry concerns voiced at the meeting include driver productivity, emerging technologies, chassis availability and road-readiness (equipment status reporting).

  • Outstanding issues in chassis safety violations include failure to have an organized maintenance program, failure to complete inspections on time, and not displaying that mechanics are qualified to perform repairs.

  • IANA has made resources available to increase compliance for intermodal chassis DVIR standards.

  • Information gaps were identified as the #1 operational issue with truck and driver capacity and freight visibility as other prominent issues mentioned. Research is still to be done to determine key components for optimal driver turn time at intermodal facilities.

Intermodal Industry Growth

  • Active U.S. economy and enforcement of the ELD mandate has resulted in domestic intermodal growth/demand with international growth attributed to increased trade activity.

  • Frank Adcock, assistant vice president with TTX, projected an industry international growth of about 4.6% and 5.5% domestic growth throughout 2018. The overall tenor of the industry is optimistic as companies prepare to manage higher freight volumes.

  • Focus areas of continued improvement include remedying service difficulties, continuing driver capacity-adding incentives (ex. pay increases), reducing longer-distance drayage in light of the ELD mandate (100-mile radius exemption), enhancing chassis utilization and service, and improving visibility of intermodal freight. 

Chassis Market Evolution

  • Bill Shea, CEO of Direct Chassis Link, Inc. said that "the most important thing is to drive efficiency. We need to give customers the tools to be better able to manage assets on the street." IEPs should strive to eliminate multiple touches on equipment, reliably and cost-effectively meet customers' needs.

  • Location-based technology and linking tractors and chassis to owners remain keys points of interest to the chassis market.

  • Motor carriers expressed the desire for truckers to have the option to develop their own ecosystems of chassis providers. These motor carriers will require financial means to support power units using multiple providers.

Identifying the Missing Link in the Chassis Market

  • Bob Blair, LITE-CHECK Fleet Solutions discussed the importance of electronics and cloud-based services in chassis management.

  • "Lost efficiency, wasted components, and roadside issues" are the effects of not having technological tools and methods for repair diagnostics.

  • A missing link in logistics management systems is maintenance yard checks that are not repeatable or reliable - for example, those that are based on an individual technician's judgement. 

  • Improved maintenance management requires direction to the technician, vendor having access to direct information from the yard, and availability of instant data for the intermodal equipment provider (IEP) to hold the fleet accountable.

ELD Mandate Lessons: Opportunity, Compliance, Tech Issues

  • Intermodal could offer transit parity or transit superiority in terms of shipping costs in light of trucking ELD constraints.

  • Compliance has been good among motor carriers and there is no difference among intermodal and over-the-road (OTR) operators. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) says only 4% of roadside inspections reported ELD violations in Q1 2018.

  • Reports on ELD mandate implementation were of mixed sentiments: Some fleets commented that customers have become more receptive to drivers' needs to get back on the road while others lost larger percentages of fleet drivers to just driving within the 100-mile exempted radius.

  • Technical challenges incurred amid implementation include transferring data between ELDs and automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) and driver training to properly forward information to inspectors.

3PLs Adopt Technology to Enhance Customer Relationships

  • Freight visibility and on-time service and key to healthy customer relationships, and XPO Logistics a standout: The company recently rolled out a cloud-based digital marketplace designed to view real-time freight information across all modes of transportation.

  • The desire to connect with shippers by way of technology exists within the 3PL market. This need will continue to intensify as larger shippers with access to technology use intermodal more often.

  • Mobile applications and affordability of communication technologies has and will continue to help adoption rates of such tools.

Voice of the Shipper

  • Ron Brothers, Callaway Golf Company appreciates intermodal for cost-effectiveness, reliability, and cross-border clearance simplification compared with OTR operations. 

  • Brothers noted that congestion at marine port facilities and several day-long delays that ensue exists as a challenge to shippers using intermodal. Still, he is looking to increase intermodal usage to combat associated risks with a driver shortage impacting the trucking industry.

To see the publication in full, click here.