Will shipping our product by rail be a more reliable mode than trucking in a time like this? (Jim Blaze)

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My company is facing an unusual amount of supply chain disruption because of the sudden lack of demand for our product. Will shipping our product by rail be a more reliable mode than trucking in a time like this?


At first glance, that is a difficult question to answer. Depends in part on which Class I and short line railroads you are using.

First -- if you want highly dependable promised day and time of day repetitive reliable delivery to your plant or warehouse dock -- it’s pretty much going to be a truck delivery choice.

If you can stand a day to a day and a half arrival time -- with a 60% to maybe 80% actual delivery as scheduled pattern -- that rail carload is a 15% to maybe 25% cheaper price delivery option.

Now a few railroad Class I carriers promise and keep a near 84% to 87% on time of day and day promised delivery --- but so far only a few will, in public, acknowledge that success rate. Check the web sites. Check the reports in the second quarter of 2020 being published to investors over the next two weeks. Which railroads are showing evidence of 90% to 94% range of carload freight delivery? If one does -- then I recommend highly that you give that carrier or carriers a try.

As for domestic intermodal freight -- the best performance I have seen published as evidence is about 94% to 97% on-time of day delivery promised -- BUT still about a day longer than straight origin to destination trucking.

And with trucking market demand requests somewhat lower than last year at this time, you can find significantly cheaper spot rates for trucking versus many rail intermodal rates.   


You need to carefully examine the market lane offers. Because in some lanes up to an 800 + mile distance, you the customer can find some cheap trucking rates out there. 

Even if the railroads are not yet fully engaged in digital selling -- that doesn't mean that you can't figure out to use your years of railroad shipping internal files to become more adaptable at picking out your opportunities. 

Yes.  You are likely sitting on a pile of railroad (NOW INHOUSE to your data) that can be used by linking it to trucking prices and terms BY LANES to create a better intelligence platform.  

Even if the railroads are not yet digital masters -- doesn't mean that you can't be. Somewhere in your company's physical distribution files, you have data that can help you answer your own question. 

You don't need Jim Blaze. Good hunting!