Trucking and logistics giant Schneider National Inc. announced Wednesday it has converted its entire fleet to an all-container configuration, a move the company says reflects its "long-term commitment" to the use of intermodal transportation.
The three-year project, which involved the conversion of a 12,000-unit fleet that had included both trailers and containers, is one of Schneider's largest investments in its 20-year history of intermodal operations, the company said in a statement.
"Current economic realities require that shippers scrutinize every aspect of their supply chain in search of energy efficiencies and cost savings," said Bill Matheson, Schneider's president, intermodal services. He added that the benefits of moving freight via containers that can be stacked in doubles aboard a train are "so significant that there's no doubt containers will become the intermodal standard in the very near future."
In 2008, 13.6 million units moved in intermodal service, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA). That was down from slightly over 14 million units in 2007. IANA projects the 2009 figure to be just over 11 million units, an indication of the impact of the economic downturn on overall transportation demand.
In recent years, the rail industry has actively promoted its virtues as the one-stop solution to transport-related environmental, infrastructure, and fuel consumption challenges. According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), one train moves a ton of freight an average of 457 miles on a single gallon of fuel, making railroads 1.9 to 5.5 times more fuel-efficient than trucks. One train can also remove the equivalent of 280 trucks from the road, reducing the burden on the nation's highways and cutting carbon dioxide emissions, the AAR says.