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Viewpoint: In Search of Vision

Two things are certain about intermodal transportation: With movements increasing an average of 13 per cent each year since 1996, its growing importance as a transportation option is without question. And so is truckers' growing frustration with d...



Two things are certain about intermodal transportation: With movements increasing an average of 13 per cent each year since 1996, its growing importance as a transportation option is without question. And so is truckers’ growing frustration with delays at jammed intermodal yards and ports.

Is the infatuation with this lower-cost alternative more than the major carrier stakeholders can handle? It’s a question requiring immediate attention. Many of the well- publicized intermodal transfer point delays – at both marine ports and rail yards – experienced over the past couple of years occurred while the Canadian and world economies were going at less than full tilt. The resurgence of the global economy, and our desire to capture a larger chunk of it, can only lead to more choke points.

Getting to the root of the problem has thus far proved elusive. Is overall intermodal capacity the problem or is it more an issue of terminal yard capacity? Is it a scheduling concern or an inability to efficiently transfer necessary data between modes? What’s causing the most grief seems to change depending on which industry stakeholder you happen to be speaking to.

My best read on the situation is that the key stakeholders, well meaning though they may be, are still too focused on their own operations to think strategically across the entire supply chain. Shippers want seamless transfers between modes but the strategic inter-mode alliances necessary to achieve such a state are still the exception rather than the rule. And, frankly, too much time is wasted on modal PR wars and finger pointing and not nearly enough on finding solutions.

The time for change is now. Aside from the fact the resurgence of global trade is about to make our intermodal issues that much more pressing, the timing is also opportune because Transport Canada is showing increased interest in intermodal transportation. Ottawa wants its future investment decisions to deal with transportation as a system rather than a collection of individual modes.

Essential at this stage is for industry leaders to come together to discuss issues and ideas and create a common vision. And so I would like to alert you to an impressive two-day gathering (Sept. 22-23) of key industry stakeholders in Toronto that’s sure to touch on the most pressing issues of intermodal transportation.

The conference is supported by the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the European Intermodal Association and the Intermodal Association of North America. As the conference chair, I can’t tell you how impressed I am with a lineup of speakers which includes representatives from the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters, the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, the Canada Border Services Agency, both of our railways, Ron Tepper from Consolidated Fastfrate (who runs perhaps the most successful intermodal operation in the industry) as well as speakers from ports and major universities.

This promises to be a conference worth your while. To register, call 1-800-882-8684 or visit www.iqpc-canada.com


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