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4/5/2012 8:30:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Rails Coax Brokers, Shippers to Fill Trains Via Intermodal

By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the April 2 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

SAN ANTONIO — Transportation brokers have an underused opportunity to move freight via intermodal shipping, but those rail shipments can require special attention, several industry experts said.

Speaking on March 22 at the Transportation Intermediaries Association meeting here, Shelli Austin, a vice president at broker IDS Services, said, “I don’t want you to think [intermodal] will fix all your problems. [Brokers] have to educate shippers and learn about it as well.”

While offering that guidance, Austin also said IDS uses intermodal for 80% of its loads because the rails can handle multiple shipments with a single phone call. As a result, one employee can do 40 loads daily using intermodal, compared with 12 for those using load boards, she said.

A TIA report found that the percentage of brokers using rail rose to 60% at the end of 2011 from 40% in mid-2010 (see related article, p. 5). The same report showed that brokers used intermodal for less than 1 million loads per year, far less than 1% of all truck shipments.

“Brokerage is our fastest-growing segment,” said Kari Kirchhoefer, assistant vice president at Union Pacific’s Streamline brokerage subsidiary. She said brokers placed 100,000 loads on the railroad last year, which also was about 3% of its intermodal business. The 2011 totals, however, represented 60% year-over-year growth.

“We are looking to play a larger role with TIA members,” said Sam Niness, assistant vice president for Norfolk Southern’s Thoroughbred Direct brokerage unit. “We need you guys to fill up” trains, he said.

Niness said brokers account for $60 million of NS intermodal revenue, or about 3% of the NS brokerage unit’s intermodal revenue.

At CSX, Tami Parsons-Dicks, director of sales, said brokers’ freight generates about 20% of CSX’s intermodal revenue.

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