CN looks to steal truck freight

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HAMILTON, Ont. — Canadian National Railway (CN) has opened a new $6-million distribution plant in the Canada’s Steel City with the express purpose of siphoning freight away from truckers.

CN says it will use the east-end steel transfer centre to ship freight to and from local mills and markets in the U.S. — a market currently dominated by long-haul fleets.

“We were guilty of not having the products and services to induce anyone to do business with us,” says CN’s Jerry Boland, vice-president of metals and minerals. “We are competing with trucks. I think trucks have had a lot of the (market) share over the years that should have been rail share … but our service hasn’t been good enough.”

The new CN facility sits beside Dofasco central shipping department operation, however, Boland insists the railway is not looking to simply serve Dofasco and Stelco. It hopes to also go after truck-loaded steel coming to southern Ontario from U.S. mills and service centres.

Until recently, said Boland, CN did not have the insulated rail cars and expertise to go after steel-carrier business. But rail cars now have the 100-tonne capacity necessary to handle large sheet coils of steel.

CN hopes to use its reach — due to acquisitions, such as the 1998 purchase of the Illinois Central railway, and agreements with other rail lines — to exploit that north-south corridor all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

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