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Railroads Getting Back Into Refrigerated Cargo

September 4, 2002

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Railroads, which had pretty much abandoned the refrigerated cargo market to the trucking industry decades ago, appear to be trying to get back into the business.

The Journal of Commerce reports this week that there are signs that railroads, which currently have only 5 percent of the perishables market, may be getting ready to take a bigger bite. Several railroads, the paper reports, are buying new temperature-controlled intermodal equipment and boxcars, and are touting advanced technology and more reliable service.
For instance, CSX got rid of its refrigerated boxcars in the 1990s, but has recently started using refrigerated intermodal equipment, the paper reports. Burlington Northern Santa Fe ha bought 700 refrigerated boxcars equipped with global positioning systems in the last two years. And last December, BNSF teamed up with Swift to provide seamless service for temperature-controlled commodities moving between the West Coast, the Midwest and the Southeast.
Dave Fleenor, assistant vice president of marketing for perishables at BNSF, told the paper the railroad industry could capture 15 percent of the market over the next five years, and eventually as much as 20 percent. He noted that over the past three years, the perishables market has been the fastest-growing business for railroads.

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