Intermodal is the mode of the future

How Taylor Adapts and Innovates in the Drayage Industry

Intermodal Shippers have encountered origin and destination drayage issues since the onset of intermodal. While the shipper may be able to see part of the origin drayage, when the container reaches its destination ramp, during the remaining move to the consignee it loses some of its visibility. The railroad supplies information on the location of the container while in their possession, but once the move is turned over to a drayage company, timely information becomes difficult, if not impossible to obtain. During this “dark period” the location of the truck and time of arrival at the consignee is unknown. These questions could equally be raised at the point of origin, particularly if the length of dray is a far distance from the railroad terminal.

Origin and destination drayage is very involved. Paperwork must be completed, the equipment must be inspected and dispatch must be handled in an efficient and timely manner. “We want to be able to more effectively match both pickups and deliveries to better utilize our company equipment,” says Keith Swensen, TDC’s Fleet Manager. Swensen noted that cargo interests were beginning to expect further transparency in their supply chains and began looking to their service providers for visibility. That is when TDC management moved aggressively to integrate drayage into their logistics offering. “In order to take advantage of the latest technology, Taylor Distributing tractors are equipped with PeopleNet, a system that provides onboard computers that we fully integrated into our dispatch process,” said Swensen.

The use of PeopleNet gives Taylor the ability to perform critical event recordings, such as hard breaking and other driving-related practices. It also provides electronic logging, which might become particularly critical if made mandatory by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “PeopleNet utilizes GPS to provide detailed information on the truck’s location and allows us to monitor the move so we can determine the driver’s ETA,” noted Swensen. All of this makes the door-to-door move fully visible while under Taylor’s control.

In addition to in-cab technology, other safety and performance technology is being incorporated in all tractors. For example, Taylor continuously invests in new day cabs which are lighter and more maneuverable than sleeper units. The goal is to have a fleet less than three years old and showcases the latest state of the art equipment. Taylor Distributing is SmartWay certified.

“The technology we are adding certainly gives us supply chain visibility that our customers seek and the age of our fleet ensures we are leveraging technology to maximize fuel efficiency, improve safety and improve customer service,” said Swensen.
As part of the overall improvement of the drayage operation, new tractors are being equipped with automatic transmissions, a feature that not only improves safety and performance but also assists with driver recruiting and retention.

On that note, Swensen is keenly aware of the driver retention and shortage issues but feels that the nature of drayage work, which allows drivers to be home almost every night, is an important lifestyle benefit for retaining drivers. Taylor Distributing Co. is taking strides to minimize driver dwell time so the driver can keep moving and stay productive, a factor in their earnings as well as equipment utilization.

Anti-Rollover or automatic stability control is now a standard feature. Auto-inflation systems are installed on international chassis. Tri-axels are also available. As part of their strategic plan, TDC has rolled out a new TMS operating system, Trinium Technologies, which will significantly improve planning, equipment utilization, and driver satisfaction.
“This will allow much more efficient use of our drayage assets and by incorporating Google mapping, we can evaluate highway traffic patterns and forecast delivery based on this information,” said Swensen. Future enhancements will be made to the customer portals to make them more robust and provide significant information to Taylor’s customers.The drayage portion of the intermodal move has come a long way since its early origins. The latest technology and processes that companies like Taylor are implementing will provide visibility and seamless movement that supply chain management requires.

In the early years, intermodal was considered a risky move for shippers and IMC’s. Today, much of that risk is gone and rail intermodal is an important part of most supply chains’ transportation mix. Intermodal has proven its value and has enjoyed growth and earned the respect of the Class I railroads as well as world class shippers. It stands on the threshold of a new era of growth as challenges mount for long-haul truckload. While a lot of long-haul conversions have taken place, regional opportunities in the east are proving intermodal is not just a mode for transcontinental freight moves. New opportunities exist in refrigerated and flatbed.Whether rail intermodal is an origin or destination leg of an international move or strictly a domestic move, it is hard to imagine the U.S. transportation network without it. As regional drays and short haul rail options increase the use of intermodal in lanes below 500 miles, the mode is clearly on the threshold of a new era. Based on proven results, intermodal is the mode of the future and Taylor Distributing is proud to be a part of it.

Leveraging Technology

Maximizing fuel efficiency, enhancing safety, and improving customer service