Almost every industry has been affected by supply chain issues in recent times. With causes ranging from oversized ships clogging major maritime ports to the unprecedented influx of vessels waiting to be unloaded around the world, there are many factors affecting these recent supply chain strains.
However, there are different options for shipping in today’s modern world that can alleviate or solve supply chain shortages for many companies. While most individuals and supply chain managers may think of air or maritime shipping as the most effective and efficient transportation methods, another competitor may be just as, if not more effective and practical.
While not as flashy as its challengers, rail transportation services are a tried-and-true tactic that has been around since the birth of industry itself and still holds its own as a reliable, predictable, cost-friendly, and attractive shipping option for many companies and industries, especially chemical manufacturing.
We’ll be discussing how railway logistics can help solve the needs of the chemical transportation industry by reviewing our case study where we helped improve the transportation of chemicals from the southern part of the US to the Northeast.
Read the full case study, Big Fish in a Bigger Pond: Upgrading a Chemical Supply Chain the Right Way, here:
Is Rail Shipping on the Outs?
Let’s cut right to the chase: not at all. According to the US Department of Transportation, the rail freight network is an 80-billion-dollar industry with around 140,000 route miles of track, accounting for approximately 28% of all freight movement within the US! Not only that, but the “US freight rail network is widely considered the largest, safest, and most cost-efficient freight system in the world.”
Transportation experts agree that rail transportation services are only poised to grow in appeal and practicality for domestic suppliers due to increased urban congestion, road traffic, fuel costs, and other impediments that slow down shipping speeds.
Increased rail freight transportation has additional benefits such as fewer highway fatalities, lower fuel consumption and logistical costs, and even lower maintenance costs for public infrastructure like roads, highways, and bridges. These are only some of the advantages rail transportation services can have for companies and the public alike.
What Are the Advantages of Rail Shipping?
The clearest advantage of shipping bulk items using rail transportation services is cost savings. When bulk shipping items such as chemicals is an option, the cost savings potentials are huge for several reasons. First, trains are much more fuel-efficient than other methods of shipping. In fact, a single gallon of diesel fuel can move one ton of freight 470 miles. Additionally (and perhaps unknown to many), US freight railroads are privately owned and independent of public infrastructure maintenance costs. This privately-owned network comprises seven Class I railroads and many smaller regional and local railroads. These private companies continually invest in the quality and efficiency of their freight rail systems, with a high percentage of revenue going towards maintenance and network expansion to constantly improve their rail transportation services and make shipping safer and more efficient.
Is Rail Transportation Safe for Shipping Chemicals?
Rail transportation services are incredibly safe for chemical shipment. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) states, “99.99% of all hazmat moved by rail reaches its destination without a release caused by a train accident.” Hazmat accident rates have even decreased by 64% since 2000 due to the collaboration of private freight companies, customers, government agencies, and all other involved parties in investing money and labor into ensuring safer practices for hazmat rail transportation services, with the ultimate goal of one day being 100% accident-free.
Examples can be seen in more properly trained staff and the increased use and advancement of technology that monitors, inspects, and tracks rail equipment and freight. Additionally, USDOT updated regulations in 2015 that made rail cars that carry hazmat safer and structurally tougher, even in the case of an accident or derailment, as well as phasing out older cars that were no longer adequately safe for hazmat transportation.
Is a Rail Management Software Necessary for Chemical Railway Shipping?
Absolutely. Rail shipping in a modern context can only be efficiently managed through reliable Rail Management Software (RMS). Utilizing this software helps create reliable data and ensures companies can more efficiently track shipments, railcar contents, destinations, shipping times, and so on. This information can help make more data-driven decisions that ultimately save time and money.
Luckily CLX has an RMS built into our proprietary Transportation Management System (TMS). Utilizing our technology helps companies save time and money and makes all their shipping services more lucrative and efficient overall through the increased awareness, management, and ease of use of real-time shipping data like railcar tracking and industry-leading fleet analytics.
How Else Can CLX Improve Chemical Rail Shipping?
Not only does CLX provide a TMS and RMS, but we also maintain strong, established relationships with several Class I rail companies to provide chemical shippers with access to more routes than other competitors, ensuring we can clear any chokepoints or hurdles that could delay shipments. Our well-established relationships can also help lower the rates of railcars and streamline contract renewals. We also provide complete railcar maintenance and management solutions and complete invoice auditing to ensure you’re paying your expenses as planned and eliminating extraneous costs at every opportunity.
As you can see, shipping with railway logistics is more relevant and practical than ever and can be an incredibly safe and efficient shipping method for chemical suppliers. Even better, CLX is here to support you throughout the entire journey with our unparalleled experts and tools to help manage your rail needs. For a more detailed look at how we’ve helped reduce costs for a company shipping titanium dioxide (TiO2), read our full case study, Big Fish in a Bigger Pond: Upgrading a Chemical Supply Chain the Right Way.
If you have more questions or are ready to see how CLX can improve your chemical shipping processes, contact us today, and let’s get started.