That BNSF Railway refrigerated boxcar trains will begin hauling eggs next year is just another sign of just how far reefer train service has come and the awaiting potential.
Come first quarter 2014, McKay TransCold will launch two weekly services connecting California’s Central Valley and northern Illinois that will haul produce, meat, and yes, frozen liquids and fresh eggs. The boxcar service from Selma, Calif., and Wilmington, Ill., comes after Rail Logistics’ Cold Train earlier this year expanded its express refrigerated intermodal service on the BNSF network from Portland, Ore., reflecting the growing demand for reefer train capacity.
Trains with 50 72-foot units will leave weekly from Selma and Wilmington on Wednesdays, providing shippers with reefer capacity equal to about 200 truckloads on each train, said Jason Spafford, vice president of business development at McKay TransCold. The 1,500-mile transit takes 96 hours and will cost shippers up to 15 percent less than a truckload haul, which can make the journey in about 12 hours less, he said. The service allows shippers to cut their carbon footprint and secure capacity, as the availability of long-haul reefer trucking capacity tightens.
“We are trying to focus on the niche between truckload and intermodal rail,” Spafford said.
He said the boxcar equipment allows handlers to more easily unload shipments of various users than using 53-foot domestic trailers. The Edina, Minn.-based third-partly logistics provider expects produce shipments coming from California, and meat, dairy and egg products from the Midwest.
“TransCold Express represents a new milestone in refrigerated train service on our network,” said Dave Garin, BNSF group vice president, industrial products. “Our network provides an ideal solution for perishable shippers to achieve superior supply chain performance because of BNSF’s commitment to service performance and reliability.”
BNSF has aggressively sought reefer customers, attracting the likes of Jack in the Box, a fast food restaurant chain, and Sierra Nevada, a beer brewer. The Western railroad moved about 150,000 refrigerated units in 2011.
McKay TransCold is working with trucking companies to provide competitive service from a Wilmington storage facility, a roughly hour drive southwest of Chicago, to Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky and the East Coast. In addition to the California market, shippers can gain access to Southern Nevada from the Selma hub. The company is also open to allowing shippers to use their own reefer trucking fleets to connect with the two hubs, which will offer forward distribution, consolidation and redistribution services.
The freight railroads have shied away from moving eggs in the past because of their fragility. But a combination of factors, including better packaging and smoother train rides, now makes it possible, Spafford said. Interest in shipping eggs from the Midwest to California is driven by the passage of a proposition in 2008 that requires California egg producers to give hens more egg-laying space, forcing many to raise their prices.