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#1
Old 10-23-2006, 09:12 PM
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Efficiency of rail shipping vs. truck

I'm always amazed at the volume of frieght that seems to be carried around the country by truck, and I wonder how much use railroads get for freight anymore.

How much does rail transport cost vs. truck transport? Would you ever use trucks for large volumes of frieght as opposed to rail (assuming the facilities for both already exist)?

Is there a hidden subsidy for trucks over rail? I always thought that rail would be more efficient, but maybe I'm just flat-out wrong.
#2
Old 10-23-2006, 10:14 PM
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In theory, trains are more efficient than trucks. Steel wheels on steel rails has the lowest friction, and economy of scale makes one large locomotive more efficient than many diesel truck engines, in terms of moving more mass using less fuel.

However, trains run on a schedule, and require loading & unloading time. A single truck can go at any time, and be loaded & unloaded faster. So for efficiency of time, a truck might be better if it's a rush delivery.

Trains also go only on specific routes, on the railroad tracks. Now these are laid along the highest volume routes for goods, between cities, ports, mines, etc., but you still have to get your goods from the rail yard to the factory or warehouse where they are needed. That is almost always done by truck nowdays.

In fact, it is inter-modal (combined truck-train) that is probably the most efficient transportation system now. This involves a truck hauling cargo to the departing rail yard, the container box of cargo being lifted off the semi-truck onto a flatbed rail car, the train hauling it most of the way, then the container being lifted off the railcar and put onto another semi-truck to be hauled the last few miles from the rail yard to the final destination. This takes advantage of the railroad's higher efficiency for long distance cross-country transportation, and the truck's higher efficiency for shorter, scattered destination hauling.


As for subsidies, trucks ride on public roads built & maintained with public money (not very hidden, the roads are right in public view); railroads had to build their own roadbed & tracks, and maintain those themselves. Though many railroads did receive government subsidies when they were originally built, 150-200 years ago. Often this was in the form of land grants: the railroad got the land to build the tracks for free, and got a certain amount of the adjoining land also, which they could then sell. (But this land was valueable only if the railroad was successful in increasing settlement & growth in the area.)

Currently, I'd say trucks get more government subsidy than railroads do. Which mode has had the most subsidy over the years would be a hard question to answer -- might be a good topic for a Masters thesis in Economics.
#3
Old 10-23-2006, 11:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected]
In theory, trains are more efficient than trucks. Steel wheels on steel rails has the lowest friction, and economy of scale makes one large locomotive more efficient than many diesel truck engines...
Also, trains run at a more constant speed - they don't have to endure stop-and-go traffic. Every time a truck accelerates from a red light it's burning fuel. Trains have a huge aerodynamic advantage as well; all the railcars are essentially drafting the lead locomotive. And of course, roads have steeper slopes than railway tracks.
#4
Old 10-23-2006, 11:50 PM
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There's something called "just in time" (JiT) delivery, which has become SOP for many retailers in the past couple of decades. Your local supermarket, or big box retailer has very minimal storage for stock, almost all their inventory is on the sales floor. This requires frequent, well timed deliveries. Something that is currently impossible by rail. Most of these entities have regional warehouses where prmary inventory control takes place and the goods are then transshipped to the individual stores. Even these distribution centers rely, in large part, on JiT truckloads.
I think this will become a political issue in the, not to distant, future as truck traffic continues to increase, the driver shortage increases and the highway infrastucture continues to suffer.
#5
Old 10-24-2006, 01:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected]
In fact, it is inter-modal (combined truck-train) that is probably the most efficient transportation system now. This involves a truck hauling cargo to the departing rail yard, the container box of cargo being lifted off the semi-truck onto a flatbed rail car, the train hauling it most of the way, then the container being lifted off the railcar and put onto another semi-truck to be hauled the last few miles from the rail yard to the final destination. This takes advantage of the railroad's higher efficiency for long distance cross-country transportation, and the truck's higher efficiency for shorter, scattered destination hauling.
[odd factoid from the dark dusty corners of Rick's mind]
Often they will lift the entire semi trailer onto a special flat car that has subsitute 5th wheel to couple the trailer to. Two semi trailers to a flat car.
So you load the trailer, drive it to the rail yard, a crane puts it on the train. At the other end, a crane takes it off, and a tractor takes to where ever.
This system is called piggyback.
The special rail cars are called pigs.
[/OFFTDDCORM]
#6
Old 10-24-2006, 01:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
[odd factoid from the dark dusty corners of Rick's mind]
Often they will lift the entire semi trailer onto a special flat car that has subsitute 5th wheel to couple the trailer to. Two semi trailers to a flat car.
So you load the trailer, drive it to the rail yard, a crane puts it on the train. At the other end, a crane takes it off, and a tractor takes to where ever.
This system is called piggyback.
The special rail cars are called pigs.
[/OFFTDDCORM]
I think you'll find piggyback shipping of semi trailer pretty much being phased out. Almost all modern semi trailer have air bag suspension in addition to leaf springs. The air soon leaks out of the bags when they're no longer attached to the truck's compressor system. This makes for a very rough ride for the trailer and it's cargo.
The latest thing is rail cars designed very low so that the can load double stacked containers, thus they can load 4 containers to each rail car.
#7
Old 10-24-2006, 01:46 AM
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Probably depends on what you mean by efficiency. If you mean fuel efficiency, or general overall resource efficiency, then probably rail. If you mean time or money, it's probably truck, which unfortunately means that's what the market chooses, much of the time.

There's an old saw in the transport game that handling is everything. The standard quiz question:

Option One - load a container onto a ship at Long Beach, sail it around the world and back and take it off again

Option Two - load a a container onto a ship at Long Beach, sail the ship out of the port limits, turn it around and take the container off. Then do it again.

Which is cheaper? Answer: Option One.

What is required is door to door transport. Unless you have your own rail siding, that means loading stuff onto a truck, off the truck onto a train, off the train and onto a truck, then off the truck. The potential time and fuel and wages savings theoretically available with road/rail/road sadly tend to get gobbled up in handling time and charges.
#8
Old 10-24-2006, 02:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected]
As for subsidies, trucks ride on public roads built & maintained with public money (not very hidden, the roads are right in public view)
I've heard claims before that vehicle licences/car taxes are a big subsidy, because the damage caused to roads by heavy vehicles is many times greater than that caused by cars, and this is not reflected in an equivalent tax differential.

The OP might be interested in this new setup in Britain, using a fairly small government grant to get a lot of private freight traffic off roads.
#9
Old 10-24-2006, 03:23 AM
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I've heard the claim that truck don't pay their fair share and maybe if you pencil out a ton/mile comparison there may be some truth to it.
Let me give you an example of the cost to an independant operation one truck. Up until the early 90's there were a hodge podge of state laws governing truck taxes and fees. Then came the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA). Members include all 48 contigous U.S. states and all Canadian provinces, except NW Terr. and the Yukon. Each jusisdiction has an IFTA office and they control the basic registration. At each registration, or renewal, the truck owner must designate which jusisdiction they intend to operate in and pay a varying fee for each. My base plate registration used to run around $1300.00 annually. In addition you must keep a record of miles traveled in each jurisdiction and, either show that you purchased sufficient fuel to cover those miles, or pay the tax per gallon for the amount of fuel needed to cover the miles. These are quarterly reports and failure to file will result in suspension of registration, or worse. In other words if you purchase fuel in Ca. and drive across Az. without fueling, you still have to pay the Az. taxes.
Even though IFTA was supposed to standardize taxing for truckers, there are many states that still find other ways to get a few more bucks out of you. I.E.: Oregon does not charge fuel tax on diesel for commercial trucks, but you must buy a fuel permit each year and pay a ton/mile fee of about twelve cents a mile. Other states charge property taxes on you equipment, even though you're not a resident.
In addition, truckers are resticted in lane usage in many states and also restricted from certain highways.
Many think we can just pass on the cost, but that's easier said than done.
IFTA helped a lot, but there are many other reforms needed in the trucking industry and, if you share the highway w/ big rigs, you should be concerned.
#10
Old 10-24-2006, 03:57 AM
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Being a locomotive engineer for a major western railroad, here are a few stats for ya.

Here is the average ''train dope'' on a typical stack train after departure from Long Beach to points east.

4 Dash-9 locomotives. Each loco has 4400 HP for a combined HP rating of 17,600 HP per train.

Train is 7800 feet long.

Train wieghs aprox 6500 tons.

Train carries aprox 220 containers. (Thats 220 trucks on the highway per train!)

Average number of stack trains leaving Long Beach per day by UP and BNSF railroads to points east ----------------38 trains! Thats 8,360 containers per day going thru Cajon Pass alone! Remember a truck can haul only one container!

Besides stack trains, we have our pig trains, coal trains, manifest trains, coil trains, grain trains, rock trains, work trains, and a few others.

Total average number of trains going east and west thru Cajon Pass per day--192 trains. Thats 96 trains westbound and 96 trains eastbound.

Average number of trucks required to haul all this frieght per day including frieght from other types of trains such as propane, coal etc..?-------82,000 trucks! PER DAY! And that is thru just one mountain pass in Calif.

Trains are here to stay.
Take Care!
#11
Old 10-24-2006, 07:13 AM
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For moving commodities such as coal, chemicals, lumber, etc., nothing can beat the trains. If we had to move all of that stuff by truck the system would collapse.

In my younger days I worked in a warehouse that loaded and unloaded both trailers and rail cars. While the amount that a trailer can hold is impressive, you can't really conceptualize how much a rail car holds until you unload one.

As for subsidies, one legally loaded tractor/trailer puts as much wear and tear on a highway as 900 passenger cars. Trucks are subsidized. Nonetheless, they are vital to the distribution system.

What people don't realize is how impressive the US distribution system is. The combination of railroads and interstate highways really moved the country ahead in a big way. Now, the other developed countries are catching up but distribution is everything when it comes to growing an economy.
#12
Old 10-24-2006, 07:32 AM
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There's still a huge amount of freight shipping by rail. The freight companies have been doing fairly well in recent years. We're just more aware of trucks because we see them more often. It's also easier to establish a new truck route than to build a new rail line, obviously.
#13
Old 10-24-2006, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis
Being a locomotive engineer for a major western railroad, here are a few stats for ya...

Average number of stack trains leaving Long Beach per day by UP and BNSF railroads to points east ----------------38 trains! Thats 8,360 containers per day going thru Cajon Pass alone! Remember a truck can haul only one container!

Total average number of trains going east and west thru Cajon Pass per day--192 trains. Thats 96 trains westbound and 96 trains eastbound.

Average number of trucks required to haul all this frieght per day including frieght from other types of trains such as propane, coal etc..?-------82,000 trucks! PER DAY! And that is thru just one mountain pass in Calif.
Real-world numbers. Cool!

Those 8360 containers would require one driver each if they were carried on the highway. A typical freight train crew these days is what, 3 or 4? (I'm ignoring support staff for either mode like locomotive or truck mechanics, track and road workers, dispatchers, etc.) 38 trains per day x 4 crew = 152, or a savings of 8208 truck drivers per day.

Expanding that to the coal, propane, pigs and whatnot - 768 crew to move it all by train or 82,000 truck drivers.

Looks like the savings in time and fuel is insignificant compared to the savings in payroll.
#14
Old 10-24-2006, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Real-world numbers. Cool!

Expanding that to the coal, propane, pigs and whatnot - 768 crew to move it all by train or 82,000 truck drivers.
Not only that but there is currently a shortage of truck drivers and it is expected to get worse. The industry is trying to recruit people that have been laid off or lost their retirement and benefits from other jobs. While there are a lot of sacrifices in becoming a long haul driver it can be a good way to get health insurance for the family and build up some retirement.
#15
Old 10-24-2006, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Looks like the savings in time and fuel is insignificant compared to the savings in payroll.
Is this something that the experts in this thread (e.g., A.R. Cane and Architeuthis) could comment on: specifically, how does the cost of truck and rail shipment break down, by fuel, labor, capital equipment, etc. For example, in the IT/data-center industry, skilled labor costs are usually greater than equipment or infrastructure costs - even though everyone tends to focus on how much each server costs, it's the support staff that tends to drive the total cost of operation. Thanks.
#16
Old 10-24-2006, 12:40 PM
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I see that containers and piggyback trailers have been mentioned. But nobody brought up the RoadRailers of Triple Crown. http://triplecrownsvc.com/Bimodal.html

I see a lot of these running along I-70 in Eastern Missouri.
#17
Old 10-24-2006, 01:11 PM
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Here is one factor that was not mentioned. I think things have improved since I first read about it, but it accounts for the large early growth of trucking over established trains. When I was growing up, all trains (by then virtually all diesel) had firemen and water handlers. More importantly, a full day's work was defined to be 100 miles, probably 2 hours work. After that a complete change of crew was required. Trucks, on the other hand, are often individually owned or anyway competing with individually owned drivers. They are often on the road for 15-18 hours every day. That is how they outcompete trains whose crews are working 2 hours a day.

Routes were often laid out in the 19th century and have not kept up with huge population shifts since then. New rail lines are hardly ever built and the old ones seem to be disappearing gradually or, for lack of maintenance, required to run at very slow speeds. Passenger trains have nearly disappeared (except in the NE corridor).
#18
Old 10-24-2006, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Real-world numbers. Cool!

Those 8360 containers would require one driver each if they were carried on the highway. A typical freight train crew these days is what, 3 or 4? (I'm ignoring support staff for either mode like locomotive or truck mechanics, track and road workers, dispatchers, etc.) 38 trains per day x 4 crew = 152, or a savings of 8208 truck drivers per day.

Expanding that to the coal, propane, pigs and whatnot - 768 crew to move it all by train or 82,000 truck drivers.

Looks like the savings in time and fuel is insignificant compared to the savings in payroll.
On the former Santa Fe 'pre 1985' the average train crew consisted of 5 persons-

Conductor
Hog Head (engineer)
Fireman
Rear brakeman
Head brakeman

Union negotiations and buyouts post 1985 then reduced the average frieght crew
to three persons-

Conductor
#19
Old 10-24-2006, 02:07 PM
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[QUOTE=Architeuthis]On the former Santa Fe 'pre 1985' the average train crew consisted of 5 persons-

Conductor
Hog Head (engineer)
Fireman
Rear brakeman
Head brakeman

Union negotiations and buyouts post 1985 then reduced the average frieght crew
to three persons-

(sorry, hit the wrong key, let me continue)

Conductor
Engineer
Brakeman

Since then crew sizes have been reduced to two persons on most frieght trains
except locals, road switchers and yard jobs.

Conductor
Engineer

Now it seems that most class 1 railroads would like to reduce crew size to 1 man and send the conductor the way of the Dodo.
#20
Old 10-24-2006, 02:44 PM
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Here are a few more tid bits for ya .

Railroads also have what they call guarantee service whereas the consignee will pay the shipper, in this case the railroad a very high premium providing that the train departs the initial terminal on time and arrives on spot on time. Kind of like FedEx on rails. These trains are mostly UPS, mail and packages
When I first hired on with the railroad these trains were known as ''hotshots'' today we call em, ''shooters'' or Z trains.
In very rare cases these trains will have priority even over passenger trains! For me nothing is more pleasant than watching an Amtrak hogger having to ''rot in the hole'' as we get around him!

As far as more technical questions go, such as fuel to weight ratio's, fuel savings, taxes, savings compared to the trucking industry I have no clue. I simply operate the train.
A friend once asked me if I enjoy my job. My answer '' there is no feelling in the world as having 22,000 horsepower at your finger tips in run 8 and doin 70mph across the desert!
#21
Old 10-24-2006, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wevets
How much does rail transport cost vs. truck transport? Would you ever use trucks for large volumes of frieght as opposed to rail (assuming the facilities for both already exist)?
Is there a hidden subsidy for trucks over rail? I always thought that rail would be more efficient, but maybe I'm just flat-out wrong.
The emerging science of logistics would seem to be the area concerned with these matters.
I recall seeing automobiles being unloaded from boxcars long ago! Today by both rail and truck depending on source-reseller locations, and sometimes a combination.
In the 19th century it was rail for the long haul. As roads improved and linked up a lot of commerce began moving by truck. Bulk materials like coal are best shipped by rail for long distances. Trucks for short. Small packages by plane.
Its not so much the cost but the relative costs of which method or combination is to be scheculed for best or adquate delivery times and minimum overall cost.
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#22
Old 10-24-2006, 03:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis
As far as more technical questions go, such as fuel to weight ratio's, fuel savings, taxes, savings compared to the trucking industry I have no clue. I simply operate the train.
Toss me in as a vote to see Archoteuthis Sign up!

You may actually be able to help us out if you could tell us approximately how much fuel you carry and how far you go between refuelings. We can probably extrapolate some fairly close numbers from that combined with your existing loadout data.
#23
Old 10-24-2006, 03:29 PM
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I should point out that generally, it's not required to ship 1000 tons of anything that isn't some commodity like coal, steel or lumber.

It's not a matter of one vs the other. People have already hit most of the high points, but there is a very complex transportation network in place that allows goods to get from point A to point B using a variety of transportation methods - air, ship, long and short haul truck, train, etc. Which type of transportation is used is dependent on many factors - time, cost, location, volume, weight, and others.

One thing you'll notice is the more extensive use of standardization. Companies can save time and costs by using standard size cargo containers and filling them with standard sized pallets (the wooden forklift things) of goods. The containers can easily be transferred from one transport medium to another.
#24
Old 10-24-2006, 03:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartydog
Not only that but there is currently a shortage of truck drivers and it is expected to get worse. The industry is trying to recruit people that have been laid off or lost their retirement and benefits from other jobs.
Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
#25
Old 10-24-2006, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon
Here is one factor that was not mentioned. I think things have improved since I first read about it, but it accounts for the large early growth of trucking over established trains. When I was growing up, all trains (by then virtually all diesel) had firemen and water handlers. More importantly, a full day's work was defined to be 100 miles, probably 2 hours work. After that a complete change of crew was required. Trucks, on the other hand, are often individually owned or anyway competing with individually owned drivers. They are often on the road for 15-18 hours every day. That is how they outcompete trains whose crews are working 2 hours a day.

Routes were often laid out in the 19th century and have not kept up with huge population shifts since then. New rail lines are hardly ever built and the old ones seem to be disappearing gradually or, for lack of maintenance, required to run at very slow speeds. Passenger trains have nearly disappeared (except in the NE corridor).
Here are a few corrections.

I work on what is called the engineers extra board. That means I must be ready for work 24/7.

'' Only 2 hours a day'' ? ( I WISH ! )

I finish my run from Barstow to LA and ''tie up'' at 6pm. (By Federal law I am entitled to 8 hrs off for rest. If I work over 12 hrs I am entitled to 10 hrs off for rest.) For all intents and purposes lets say I was on duty for 12 hrs and I get 10 hrs off for rest.

I leave the crew lobby at 6pm and it takes me 1 hr to get home. ( I'm now down to 9hrs rest)

I get home eat dinner and visit with my family for lets say 1 hr ( I'm down to 8 hrs rest)

I go to bed and then get my call at 1am to be back on duty at 4am . ( I have only been sleeping for 5 hrs.) Note: We get a three hour call from the crew caller)

I doze off to sleep for one hour. Now I have got 6 hrs sleep.

I pull myself out of bed get a bite to eat, shower and arrive at the terminal at 4am.
The conductor and I go over our paper work, our train makeup and any other info we will need for our trip.
We then taxi to our train. The conductor goes over his train list while I inspect the locomotive consist and make sure that all locomotives are in working order.
The ''herder'' and I do the required air test and ''blast off'' to Barstow.
The average trip to Barstow takes 8-12 hrs. Depending on train congestion at San Berdoo and on ''the hill'' ie; Cajon. Another factor is comuter traffic. During the week days we have to contend with over 30 passenger trains daily. ie; Amtrak and Metrolink trains.
Lets say our 12 hrs is up and we are on the mainline near Victorville, Calif. We then have to wait on the train for the ''dog catch'' crew to show up and relive us. This can take anywhere from 1-2 hrs. Once they show up we hop in the taxi and van to Barstow. The taxi ride takes 1hr. We then arrive at Barstow and tie up at the crew lobby.
Remember I have been up since 1am. The time is now 7pm by the time I arrive at the motel to get my ''rest'' and start the cycle all over again.

New tracks are being laid down all over the country. Both frieght and passenger service has increased by over 200% in the last five years. Since 1989 frieght and passenger service has increased over 500%. Yes the 60's, 70's and early 80's were indeed a dark time for the railroads but they have come back and will continue to grow in decades to come. Come to Cajon Pass. You will be surprised on the amount of rail traffic.

Take Care, Mike
#26
Old 10-24-2006, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drachillix
Toss me in as a vote to see Archoteuthis Sign up!

You may actually be able to help us out if you could tell us approximately how much fuel you carry and how far you go between refuelings. We can probably extrapolate some fairly close numbers from that combined with your existing loadout data.
A Dash-9 holds approx 5,000 gal.
Older loco's such as SD-40-2's hold about 4,000
Older switch engines hold approx 2,500-3,000gal

Fuel tanks are almost always kept full to aid in tractive effort and rail adhesion. Adds weight to the loco.

When I get back to work I'll have a talk with the diesel shop guys and get some more technical answers for you folks. Any questions, just post and I'll try to answer them.
Take Care,
Mike
#27
Old 10-24-2006, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by GaryM
I see that containers and piggyback trailers have been mentioned. But nobody brought up the RoadRailers of Triple Crown. http://triplecrownsvc.com/Bimodal.html

I see a lot of these running along I-70 in Eastern Missouri.
Here in Los Angeles we (BNSF) used to run two RoadRailer trains per day. These trains were phased out a few years ago. Reason? Perhaps they will return.
#28
Old 10-24-2006, 05:33 PM
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The average semi can move approximately six to seven miles on a gal. of fuel, I seem to recall reading that the average frieght train only moves around 30-40 feet on the same gallon.The road vs. rail comparison is a lot more complicated than the basic cost to move x miles on y fuel. Rail can obviously move freight much cheaper than trucking it. There are many more variables involved. Here are two big ones: A truck can p/u at the point of production and deliver to the point of use. W/ rail the product must usually be moved from the production point to the rail and then from the rail to the point of use, w/ all the additional facilities, equipment and manpower required for the additional handling. End users rarely want an entire train car load of a specific product, so you have to add in the logistics of moving partial carloads. Many end point users are geared up to handle a truckload, but if a mixed truckload is required, the logistics are fairly simple. (remember my JiT scenario from above?) I don't have the data available, but I believe that the average truckload of freight moves somewhere in the 4-500 mile range in one to two days. Seem pretty difficult to do that by rail.
Don't get me wrong, I think there are far too many trucks on the road and that the system, as a whole, could be much more efficient. I also believe that rail should play a larger roll in moving produts in the U.S., but it's a very complex problem, or series of problems.
#29
Old 10-24-2006, 05:55 PM
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Wow. This is really awesome - I never expected such great and detailed responses! You all are amazing folks.

So it seems that there are a lot of factors I didn't take into account in my OP - that should hardly be surprising, since I know about this --->. much about the transport industry.

So would it be fair to say that if I want 2 days' worth supply of sneakers for my Wal-Mart store to be shipped from the port of Oakland, CA to Amarillo, TX, then truck is likely to be my best option. And if I want 57 tons of molten sulfur shipped from Richmond, CA to Amarillo, TX, then rail or some truck/rail combination is likely to be my best option? (Inspired by seeing a truck labeled "Molten Sulfur" in Richmond the other day)


Also, an addition question for Architeuthis, if s/he's inclined to be so kind: How has the drastic reduction in freight train crews affected you and rail operations? Has it affected safety? Is automation able to keep up with it or has it vastly increased your workload?
#30
Old 10-24-2006, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robot Arm
Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
I don't have a newsletter, I only have a vast store of useless knowledge.

I became aware of the shortage of truck drivers through a CNN International report. Following is a link to an article by the ATA that goes in depth into the matter:

Shortage of 20,000 drivers may increase to 111,000 by 2014

Take the stats as mathmatical projections but the fact is that there are good jobs out there and a lot of the current long haul drivers are looking to retire.
#31
Old 10-24-2006, 06:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Those 8360 containers would require one driver each if they were carried on the highway. A typical freight train crew these days is what, 3 or 4? (I'm ignoring support staff for either mode like locomotive or truck mechanics, track and road workers, dispatchers, etc.)
[Emphasis added]

You absolutely cannot do this. The large infrastructure required to operate a railroad compared to a truck cannot be ignored, if you have any hope of meaningful comparison.

Quote:
38 trains per day x 4 crew = 152, or a savings of 8208 truck drivers per day.
As AR Cane has said, this is invalid because you are ignoring the truck drivers needed to move the containers from door to train and from train to door. You are also ignoring the yard workers required to shift the containers at change of mode.

No question that rail has it all over road for moving large quantities of bulk goods to and from depots that have their own sidings (coal terminal to power station, say).

Small volume goods, it's a whole other story.
#32
Old 10-24-2006, 08:49 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: The great PNW.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartydog
I don't have a newsletter, I only have a vast store of useless knowledge.

I became aware of the shortage of truck drivers through a CNN International report. Following is a link to an article by the ATA that goes in depth into the matter:

Shortage of 20,000 drivers may increase to 111,000 by 2014

Take the stats as mathmatical projections but the fact is that there are good jobs out there and a lot of the current long haul drivers are looking to retire.
There are certainly a lot of truck driving jobs available, but I would serious question calling them "good" jobs. The vast majority of long haul drivers are paid by the mile, and trust me when I tell you, a driver will spend many hours not moving, for one reason or another, not moving means no pay and most of that lost time will be far from home.
The ATA is notorious for pretending to represent drivers concerns, but in practice always siding w/ the big trucking companies. So, if they acknowledge that compensation is the main issue, you can bet that it's even more of an issue than they say. I would discouage a person w/ a family to avoid a long haul trucking job. If you're single, really into driving a big rig and don't expect big money for all the time your going to put into it, if you want to see N. America through a windshield, then you might make a good trucker.
I made good money in the 80's and early 90's, but trucking, as a job, has been going downhill for over a decade.
As an independent I would be on the phone looking for my next gig as soon as I had a delivery time for the load on my truck. As a company driver, you have to depend on your company to keep you moving, despite the logic of that being to their benefit, it doesn't happen as often as you might expect. Their equipment may be sitting idle, but they don't have to worry about wages, because you don't get paid unless the wheels turn and, even then, only if the company authorizes those wheels to turn. So if you find yourself a few hours from home, on a friday evening, knowing there's no chance of loading before monday, you can't just decide to go home without being penalized for your decision.
#33
Old 10-24-2006, 08:52 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by wevets
Wow. This is really awesome - I never expected such great and detailed responses! You all are amazing folks.

So it seems that there are a lot of factors I didn't take into account in my OP - that should hardly be surprising, since I know about this --->. much about the transport industry.

So would it be fair to say that if I want 2 days' worth supply of sneakers for my Wal-Mart store to be shipped from the port of Oakland, CA to Amarillo, TX, then truck is likely to be my best option. And if I want 57 tons of molten sulfur shipped from Richmond, CA to Amarillo, TX, then rail or some truck/rail combination is likely to be my best option? (Inspired by seeing a truck labeled "Molten Sulfur" in Richmond the other day)


Also, an addition question for Architeuthis, if s/he's inclined to be so kind: How has the drastic reduction in freight train crews affected you and rail operations? Has it affected safety? Is automation able to keep up with it or has it vastly increased your workload?
Excellent question!
As previously mentioned, in the early days and up until around 1985 each train consisted of 5 crew members. They were the-
Conductor
Engineer
Fireman
Head Brakeman
Rear Brakeman

Each crew member had specific duties. First of all the conductor was ''lord paramount'' he was (and still is to some degree) the undisputed hands down ''number one'' boss of the entire crew including even, the engineer. (of course there were and still are ''traditional'' ways for an engineer to get back at a conductor if there happened to be any riff between the two, ie rough train handling, spilt coffee, broken freight car knuckles.....well you get the idea, heh,heh )
ANYWAY, the conductor is responsible for the administration of the train. He would fill out all nessasary switching list, ''clic'' in cars that were to be pulled and spotted to industries. Brief the entire crew on how certain moves were to be performed such as tricky (and now illegal) moves such as ''dropping cars'', ''kicking cars'', ''dutch drops'', ''flying drops'' and other works of art that are now sadley a thing of the past. He is also responsible for getting track warrants, track bullitins from the train dispatcher via radio or phone. In the old days before radio, clerks would ''hoop up'' orders to a train on the fly.

The ''Hoghead'' or engineer is responsible for safely operating the train. Obeying the conductor, all signals, speed restrictions and rules of the road. An engineer must have a good reputation for smooth running or he will be ''black-balled'' by his peers. An engineer known to be rough can cause a crew member to be thrown off a cut of cars and cause injury or death (it still happens). Rough train handling can also cause derailments.------------To be continued.
#34
Old 10-24-2006, 09:14 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: St. Louis, MO 50mi. West
Posts: 4,735
Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis
Here in Los Angeles we (BNSF) used to run two RoadRailer trains per day. These trains were phased out a few years ago. Reason? Perhaps they will return.
I saw one heading West over the weekend. This was in St. Charles County Missouri. According to the Triple Crown website they apparently run service between KC and St. Louis. But nothing West of Dallas TX. I wonder why that is the case?
#35
Old 10-24-2006, 10:23 PM
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Location: Lethbridge, Alberta
Posts: 14,076
I have nothing to contribute to this thread except to say that Architeuthis, I see that you are posting as a guest. I hope that you give some thought to spending the money to become a full-fledged Doper. I've learned from your posts in this thread, and I'm a railfan from way back myself (thanks to my Dad, who used to work for the Canadian National Railways), so if you do stick around, I'll look forward to your insights as to railways.

'Nuff said for now.
#36
Old 10-24-2006, 10:32 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: CALIF
Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spoons
I have nothing to contribute to this thread except to say that Architeuthis, I see that you are posting as a guest. I hope that you give some thought to spending the money to become a full-fledged Doper. I've learned from your posts in this thread, and I'm a railfan from way back myself (thanks to my Dad, who used to work for the Canadian National Railways), so if you do stick around, I'll look forward to your insights as to railways.

'Nuff said for now.
Hey, thanks!
Yeah I'll probably join up. What did your dad do at CN?
If ya have any railroad questions give em a post!
Thanks aqain!
Mike
#37
Old 10-25-2006, 08:14 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 9,193
'nother railfan checking in here. Just to echo what Spoons said, welcome Architeuthis. Great posts. Good to hear about US railroad practice. On the other hand, anything you want to know about Australian railways, do let me know.

C'mon Doper railfans. there must be more of us. Come out and stop lurking in Two Notch.
#38
Old 10-25-2006, 08:36 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Southeast MN
Posts: 5,904
Also, for bulk transportation (coal, grain, lumber) I believe the king is barge.
Of course, this only works if you are trasporting on a water route (Minneapolis to St Louis) and mostly for low cost, high volume commadities (I don't think computer chips or jewelry is often transported by barge)

Brian
#39
Old 10-25-2006, 10:10 AM
Guest
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: CALIF
Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis
Excellent question!
As previously mentioned, in the early days and up until around 1985 each train consisted of 5 crew members. They were the-
Conductor
Engineer
Fireman
Head Brakeman
Rear Brakeman

Each crew member had specific duties. First of all the conductor was ''lord paramount'' he was (and still is to some degree) the undisputed hands down ''number one'' boss of the entire crew including even, the engineer. (of course there were and still are ''traditional'' ways for an engineer to get back at a conductor if there happened to be any riff between the two, ie rough train handling, spilt coffee, broken freight car knuckles.....well you get the idea, heh,heh )
ANYWAY, the conductor is responsible for the administration of the train. He would fill out all nessasary switching list, ''clic'' in cars that were to be pulled and spotted to industries. Brief the entire crew on how certain moves were to be performed such as tricky (and now illegal) moves such as ''dropping cars'', ''kicking cars'', ''dutch drops'', ''flying drops'' and other works of art that are now sadley a thing of the past. He is also responsible for getting track warrants, track bullitins from the train dispatcher via radio or phone. In the old days before radio, clerks would ''hoop up'' orders to a train on the fly.

The ''Hoghead'' or engineer is responsible for safely operating the train. Obeying the conductor, all signals, speed restrictions and rules of the road. An engineer must have a good reputation for smooth running or he will be ''black-balled'' by his peers. An engineer known to be rough can cause a crew member to be thrown off a cut of cars and cause injury or death (it still happens). Rough train handling can also cause derailments.------------To be continued.

Continuing on!

Back in the steam era the fireman had many duties. The most basic and classic of duties was of course to shovel coal or throw wood into the firebox and keep the fire hot--but not too hot as to blow up the whole damn boiler. Steam engines of this type were known as ''muzzle loaders''. The shovel loads of coal or cords of wood had to be evenly dispersed within the firebox as to keep an even fire. The fireman didn't just simply dump in the coal or wood. It had to be flung in with a lot of force to reach the front of the firebox.
On the old Santa Fe here in California from I belive the early 20's until the end of steam in 1953 all steam engines were ''oil burners''. Coal was simply not abundant here in Southern California and to use coal simply would not have been cost effective. Another reason was pollution. Oil was simply cleaner burning than coal. Historically railroads west of New Mexico burned oil whereas railroads east of NM burned coal as well as oil.
The fireman on oil burners used a valve to operate injectors which in turn would feed the fire. This was known as a ''firing valve''. Muzzle loaders were a thing of the past and with ''good riddance I imagine.
Besides oil, coal and wood the other most important item was water. Without water there could not be steam. It was quite a job for a fireman back in those days. Number one he had to keep the grumpy ol' hoghead happy, he had to keep the boiler at I belive around 220 psi on most steamers, a full head of steam and a good even fire. In addition he also had to verbally call out signals and restrictions to the engineer around curves when vision was obscured by the long boiler.
Once the diesels took over steam power there was of course no longer a need for the fireman. Some early diesels on passenger trains did in fact have steam generators located in the rear of the locomotive for heating and the fireman operated that or so I have been told by the ''old heads at work. Due to union contracts the position of fireman was not abolished until the early 80's and unless he was getting ready for the engineers exam he was just along for a well paid joy ride.----------To be continued
#40
Old 10-25-2006, 10:16 AM
Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 14,542
Quote:
Originally Posted by N9IWP
(I don't think computer chips or jewelry is often transported by barge)
Although they do carry big aircraft parts and rockets on barges... (I assume that's because they don't fit in railcars or truck.)

Slight hijack, but there's a new and interesting bi-modal transport in Japan: the M250 "Super Rail Cargo" train (photos here). It's just a container train but it's designed like a high-speed passenger train, with motive power distributed among many cars. It has a max speed of 80mph and scheduled average speed of 56 mph, which makes it the fastest "conventional" train in Japan (i.e. excluding bullet trains which run on dedicated tracks). It's operated exclusively for Sagawa Kyubin (a package delivery company) and runs every night between Tokyo and Osaka. They claim it replaces 16,000 truck trips per year, reducing CO2 emission by 12,000 tons annually.
#41
Old 10-25-2006, 11:14 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Lethbridge, Alberta
Posts: 14,076
Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis
Yeah I'll probably join up. What did your dad do at CN?
Dad worked on CN passenger trains, as did most of his family, so that should give you an idea of how long ago it was. He could see that passenger rail was declining, and decided to get out. But he seemed to really enjoy working on the trains, and still tells some great stories from those days.
#42
Old 10-25-2006, 01:56 PM
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Location: Not here. There.
Posts: 18,973
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartydog
Not only that but there is currently a shortage of truck drivers and it is expected to get worse. The industry is trying to recruit people that have been laid off or lost their retirement and benefits from other jobs. While there are a lot of sacrifices in becoming a long haul driver it can be a good way to get health insurance for the family and build up some retirement.
I've sometimes thought that if for whatever reason I had to take a blue-collar job, being a long-haul truck driver would be the most rewarding, though I'm sure my notion of a trucker's lifestyle is outmoded. Except having to travel so much would suck. Go figure.
#43
Old 10-25-2006, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis
Average number of trucks required to haul all this frieght per day including frieght from other types of trains such as propane, coal etc..?-------82,000 trucks! PER DAY! And that is thru just one mountain pass in Calif.

Trains are here to stay.
Take Care!
Couple of questions for you, if I may. First, how many freights a day use the line between LA and San Diego? I notice that in many places, if not most, the line is single tracked, so it amazes me that a dozen passenger round trips plus the freights can all share that route. True, the passenger trains frequently have to pull over and give the freights right of way, but still it's remarkable that there hasn't been a horrible smashup.

Second, I work in El Segundo and notice a rail line that runs south alongside of Aviation Boulevard. I assume that track eventually goes to the harbor area, but where else does it connect with the system?
#44
Old 10-25-2006, 02:52 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: CALIF
Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
Couple of questions for you, if I may. First, how many freights a day use the line between LA and San Diego? I notice that in many places, if not most, the line is single tracked, so it amazes me that a dozen passenger round trips plus the freights can all share that route. True, the passenger trains frequently have to pull over and give the freights right of way, but still it's remarkable that there hasn't been a horrible smashup.

Second, I work in El Segundo and notice a rail line that runs south alongside of Aviation Boulevard. I assume that track eventually goes to the harbor area, but where else does it connect with the system?
The San Diego line used to belong to Santa Fe Railroad. I belive it is now owned by Metrolink and SDNR RY. Anyway from Fullerton Jct to San Diego the line is a mix of double track and single track. With the increased amount of rail traffic over the years, both freight and passenger, plans are to DT the entire route. In my opinion I think they are going to have problems with area's such as San Clemente and the Del Mar area due to public outcry. In a few area's the tracks run thru protected tidal marine estuaries.
Besides local road switchers, there are on average just two thru freights in a 24 hr period. One westbound and one eastbound. These trains go from San Diego to Barstow where they will be ''humped'' and put on other trains. Once in awhile automax trains will run this route too.
As a general rule dispatchers will always direct freight trains to give way to passenger trains. We call this ''being put in the hole''. If we have more than one meet this is called ''rotting in the hole''.
The El Segundo area is indeed the old ''harbor route''. Since the completion of the Alameda Corridor this old route is seldom used except by locals and road switchers. I've heard rumors that this line might be sold to Metrolink for possible commuter traffic. Again this is only speculation.

Hope this helped ya.
#45
Old 10-25-2006, 03:28 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spoons
Dad worked on CN passenger trains, as did most of his family, so that should give you an idea of how long ago it was. He could see that passenger rail was declining, and decided to get out. But he seemed to really enjoy working on the trains, and still tells some great stories from those days.
You ever get a chance, you should post some of those stories. I would like to here them.
When I first hired on 9 yrs ago there were still a lot of the old timers (''old heads'' we call them) left. Now most of them are retired and gone. Even though some of these guys could be real SoB's to work with, one still had to admire them. They were from the ''old school so to speak and were a different breed altogether. Some of the stories these guys would tell were just amazing! I remember when I first started my training to become an engineer I was fortunate to get to train with a guy who hired on with Santa Fe in 1952!!! He was number one in senority. This guy actually fired on steam powered passenger runs. Some of the ''tricks of the trade'' he would show me on how to run a road switcher were real jaw droppers. I can still remember Bill screaming at me in his gruff voice with his ever present cigar dangling from his mouth--- ''STAY WITH IT, STAY WITH IT, DON'T BACK OFF!!! NOW DAMMIT WHY IN THE HELL DID YOU SET AIR'' It was a real honor to train with him and as long as I live I will always remember those days! No matter how grumpy these old heads could be, we had nothing but respect for them! Sad to see em go.

Take care
#46
Old 10-26-2006, 10:48 AM
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Thanks Architeuthis, I'm gaining a lot of insight into rail from your posts. BTW, I should mention that I also really like the tentacly goodness of your posting name.
#47
Old 10-26-2006, 01:31 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: CALIF
Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by wevets
Thanks Architeuthis, I'm gaining a lot of insight into rail from your posts. BTW, I should mention that I also really like the tentacly goodness of your posting name.
Heh, heh. Yeah, I have been asked a time or two on what the heck is an Architeuthis. I guess thats just the nautical and ocean buff in me. BTW, since you know what it means, did you read that after years of trying, they finaly filmed one?
In one way I'm glad, on the other, well, I kind of wish that it remained the enigma that it was. But thats the spirit of discovery and exploration. A creature such as that really teaches us how little we know of this world we live in and what discoveries still await!--------------Now if they can just figure out what Bloop is! (eagerly rubs hands together)
#48
Old 05-24-2013, 03:21 AM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 2
Quote:
Originally Posted by Architeuthis View Post
Hey, thanks!
Yeah I'll probably join up. What did your dad do at CN?
If ya have any railroad questions give em a post!
Thanks aqain!
Mike
Mike (Architeuthis). Just found this forum so if I've posted in the wrong place my apologies. Years ago (1968) I too worked on the CN. Extra Gang 151 out of Jasper Alberta. Summer job. Hard work putting automated switches in sidings. I was just a grunt on the end of a spike hammer but being young I loved the outdoors and fresh air. I just have one question if you have time. I've read that this 'just in time' inventory thing means that companies have most of their stock on trucks on the road. One report claimed that this amounts to 'rolling warehouses'. The report I read said the 'just in time' principle reduces warehouse costs significantly and essentially put the warehouse on the road. Any thoughts on this?
#49
Old 05-24-2013, 05:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tufaw View Post
Mike (Architeuthis). Just found this forum so if I've posted in the wrong place my apologies. Years ago (1968) I too worked on the CN. Extra Gang 151 out of Jasper Alberta. Summer job. Hard work putting automated switches in sidings. I was just a grunt on the end of a spike hammer but being young I loved the outdoors and fresh air. I just have one question if you have time. I've read that this 'just in time' inventory thing means that companies have most of their stock on trucks on the road. One report claimed that this amounts to 'rolling warehouses'. The report I read said the 'just in time' principle reduces warehouse costs significantly and essentially put the warehouse on the road. Any thoughts on this?
Welcome to the forum, tufaw. If you look at the date of the posts in this thread you'll see that they're all from 2006, and looking at Architeuthis' posting information I see that he only posted for a couple of months in that year and hasn't posted since, so you're unlikely to get a reply from him.
#50
Old 06-08-2013, 06:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tufaw View Post
The report I read said the 'just in time' principle reduces warehouse costs significantly and essentially put the warehouse on the road. Any thoughts on this?
I am not a train guy but I can answer as an inventory guy from not so long ago. JiT does reduce the needs for warehouse space, but creates greater risk of stockouts in the event of a late delivery. So you are trading costs for possible loss of sales. By analysis of typical sales you can still extrapolate decent stock levels that will let you meet 95%+ of your sales orders while still keeping minimal stock on hand. As far as "rolling warehouses" yes there can be a lot of freight in the pipeline, but in many cases warehouse space is cheaper than trucks. Supply chain folks can break down the transport and storage costs for various goods to come up with the most cost effective ordering patterns for the desired level of service to be achieved.
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