Ownership of North American Intermodal Rail Terminals,
The United States alone has about 2,270 rail facilities rail performing
some form of
intermodalism by being able to move freight from rail to
trucks. Although this appears to be a large number, only about 20% of
these facilities handle a significant intermodal volume and less than
10% of them are true intermodal container terminals. The rest are local
facilities fulfilling specific industrial, resources or manufacturing
needs for bulk and break-bulk shipments. Thus, the North American system
of operational intermodal rail terminals handling COFC and TOFC traffic
accounts for about 204 facilities covering major inland markets. All
are privately owned and operated. The
great majority are intermodal terminals accessible by truck only, but
about 20 of them are on-dock or near-dock rail facilities enabling to directly move
containers from the port to the hinterland.
Most intermodal terminals are clustered around major maritime gateways
(e.g. Los Angeles, New York) and intermediary locations having strong inland
logistical activities and inland ports (Chicago, Memphis, Kansas City).
The location of intermodal rail terminals is a balancing act between
gateway location, market density, interlining and complementarity with
trucking. In spite of a system controlled by only seven major operators,
the great majority of inland load centers are serviced by a least two
operators, which confers a level of competitiveness and offers options
for regional shippers.
For the western system, most load centers are
serviced by both BSNF and UP, while for the eastern system, most load
centers are serviced by both UP and CSX. A similar pattern is observed
for the Canadian system with CN and CP. There are however a few notable
exceptions serviced by only one intermodal terminal and with no nearby
competitors such as for Halifax (CN), Salt Lake City (UP), Billings
(BNSF), Albuquerque (BNSF), Amarillo (BNSF) and Prince Rupert (CN).
On the opposite range of the spectrum several locations, particularly
at the interface between regional systems, have three or more rail operators
(Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Dallas-Fort Worth,
New Orleans and Atlanta). They are thus particularly prone to a more
competitive inland terminal setting offering shipping options to both
the east and the west coasts.
Many railways are also offering to deliver and collect
intermodal cargo from depots, also knows as 'paper ramps'. This
gives additional market area coverage and options for their
customers since the whole service is technically considered a
rail haulage contract while some segments include a road haulage
between a depot and an intermodal yard. Opportunities are
therefore available to reduce gate congestion at the intermodal
yard while consolidating and synchronizing haulage.