“Shippers Leveraging America’s Inland Ports” as seen in American Shipper
Inland ports are continuing to sprout up across the United States and are playing an increasingly important role in supply chain efficiency throughout the nation.
Seaports are seeing larger vessels but fewer calls, meaning more cargo is being offloaded at once, but inland ports can help stagger out the flow of this cargo by offering rail service to and from the seaports, thus easing congestion.
Average containership size on the trades from Asia to the U.S. East and West coasts has steadily increased over the years, as illustrated in the chart below, which was constructed using data from BlueWater Reporting.
As of September, average containership size on the Asia-to-U.S. East Coast trade totaled 8,666 TEUs and average containership size on the Asia-to-U.S. West Coast trade was 8,185 TEUs, up 10.1 percent and 1.9 percent year-over-year, respectively.
There was an especially strong increase on the Asia-to-U.S. East Coast trade between the September reporting periods in 2015 and 2016, which likely was fueled by the Panama Canal’s third set of locks opening in June 2016, allowing the canal to handle vessels of over 14,000 TEUs. Prior to the expansion, the waterway could only handle vessels of up to around 5,000 TEUs.
Average containership size for all U.S. inbound trades combined also has steadily increased over the years, as illustrated in the chart below, which also was built using data from BlueWater Reporting.
As of September, average containership size for all U.S. inbound trades was 6,331 TEUs, up 3.5 percent from a year earlier and up 7.7 percent from two years prior.
Although U.S. ports have been making investments to handle larger vessels, such as deepening and widening channels, ordering larger cranes and building more container storage, the nation’s infrastructure outside the ports has not kept up, thus leading to more congestion on roads.
Inland ports can give shippers more options, which can potentially lead to cheaper transport costs and faster transits. This is especially important in an industry in which a capacity crunch has given carriers the upper hand. Shippers have been left to figure out how to market themselves to become shippers of choice in a carrier’s market in order to even secure capacity.
In particular, inland ports allow shippers to rely less on the trucking industry, which has been experiencing higher freight rates fueled by increased diesel costs, as well as the driver shortage and capacity crunch.
The national average line haul spot rate for van, flatbed and reefer cargo increased in September from a year prior, as illustrated in the chart below, which was constructed using data from DAT Solutions.
As of Oct. 18, U.S. diesel fuel prices averaged $3.298 per gallon, up from $3.184 per gallon a month earlier and $2.727 per gallon a year earlier, according to AAA.
The chart below, built using data from AAA on Oct. 18, illustrates that average diesel fuel prices increased year-over-year in all 50 states, while on a month-over-month basis average diesel fuel prices rose in all states except Utah and Wyoming.
The annualized employee turnover rate at large truckload carriers (those with more than $30 million in annual revenues) and less-than-truckload carriers appears to have been steadily increasing over the last few quarters, while the annualized turnover rate at small truckload carriers (those with less than $30 million in annual revenues) has been declining, as illustrated in the chart below, which was constructed using data from the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
During the second quarter of 2018, the annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers was the largest since the fourth quarter of 2015, while the annualized turnover rate at LTL carriers was the highest level since the first quarter of 2013, the ATA said. In addition to cutting down on truck miles on the nation’s roads, inland ports often allow exporters to source needed empties from the local inland port rather than at the seaport.
Across the Nation. Looking at some of the nation’s new and notable inland ports, the Appalachian Regional Port (ARP), operated by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), just opened in August. Situated in northwest Georgia near I-75 and U.S. 411, ARP is served by CSX, which provides a direct, 388-mile route to and from the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. GPA said ARP is expected to remove 50,000 trucks and 15 million truck miles from local highways each year.
Cordele Inland Port, through Cordele Intermodal Services, a privately owned logistics provider that specializes in container handling and over-the-road trucking, was Georgia’s first inland port. Cordele Inland Port is located in south central Georgia and is less than a mile from I-75 and Georgia Highways 300 and 280. The inland port offers a direct, 200-mile rail route to and from the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal.
The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) owns and operates Inland Port Greer, which opened in October 2013, and Inland Port Dillon, which opened this April.
Situated in Greer, S.C., along I-85, Inland Port Greer is 212 miles inland from Charleston and about halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. Norfolk Southern provides rail service between the Port of Charleston and Inland Port Greer in both directions. Volumes have been surging at Inland Port Greer since it opened. The inland port handled 124,817 rail moves in 2017, up from 103,639 rail moves in 2016, 75,111 in 2015 and 42,555 in 2014, according to statistics provided by SCPA.
“The inland port has been a valuable partner for BMW,” Max Metcalf, BMW Manufacturing manager of government and community relations, said in October. “They have handled over 180,000 containers for us over the past five years and created a much more efficient system for moving containerized product to and from the Port of Charleston. This success is likely replicated for suppliers and numerous other companies that use this facility.”
In Dillon, S.C., at Inland Port Dillon, which is in close proximity to I-95 and U.S. 501, CSX provides rail service in both directions between the inland port and the Port of Charleston. SCPA said in April that Inland Port Dillon was expected to convert 45,000 container movements from truck to rail in the first year of operation.
Although many inland ports exist within a couple of hundred miles of prominent seaports, some inland ports exist in areas farther away from the coast. The Midwest Inland Port, which is about 160 miles southwest of Chicago in Decatur, Ill., allows shippers to avoid Chicago’s congestion and tolls. Midwest Inland Port features an intermodal ramp; direct access to CSX, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern; toll-free access to Interstates 72, 55, 74 and 57 and U.S. 51; and an airport. Although the railroads and airport have been operating in Decatur a long time, grain producer and shipper ADM built an intermodal ramp there five years ago and opened it to other companies’ freight in 2015, Nicole Bateman, executive director at Midwest Inland Port said earlier this year. Turn times at the ADM Intermodal Ramp are holding strong at 24 minutes, Bateman said in October.
Although there is no official inland port nearby, the Port of Los Angeles has an extensive and modern network of on-dock and near-dock rail services, connecting cargo that flows through the port to regions across North America. The Port of Los Angeles claims to be the busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere and has ranked as the No. 1 container port in the United States each year since 2000.
The port said its rail network includes one near-dock rail yard and five on-dock rail yards that serve its container terminals. The network links to the Alameda Corridor, a dedicated rail expressway that connects the docks to the transcontinental rail system for cargo to flow nonstop between the port and markets throughout North America. The port’s rail network also consists of the near-dock Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) and five off-dock mainline rail yards, three of which are operated by Union Pacific and two that are operated by BNSF. The ICTF is operated by Union Pacific and supports the relay of marine cargo containers between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and major rail yards near downtown Los Angeles.
The city of Dallas also plays a huge role in the nation’s intermodal operations with its International Inland Port of Dallas (IIPOD), an intermodal and logistics district that encompasses 7,500 acres and five municipalities. The City of Dallas Office of Economic Development noted that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is at the confluence of three major Class I railroad networks — Union Pacific, BNSF and Kansas City Southern — and that the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is the nation’s ninth-largest cargo airport and the only airport with the capacity to double operations in its existing footprint.
IIPOD is served by thee major interstates (I-35 E, I-20 and I-45) and a Union Pacific intermodal terminal. Major manufacturing tenants at IIPOD include American Textile, Pioneer Frozen Foods, Niagara Bottling and Serta Dormae. Major corporate logistics and distribution tenants include Amazon, Conn’s, Home Depot, L’Oreal, National Tire & Battery, RR Donnelley & Sons and Thermo Fisher Scientific, while major 3PLs include FedEx Supply Chain and NFI Industries.
Looking ahead, an inland port is being planned in Salt Lake City. The inland port authority’s board was created by the Utah Legislature during the 2018 general session, which ran from Jan. 22 to March 8. However, the board has faced heat over a lack of transparency, and the project also has raised concerns from environmental groups.
The board held a public hearing Thursday to accept public comments and consider adopting an annual budget. Following the meeting, the board issued a press release saying that it “approved a budget to procure a search firm for an executive director, hire an interim administrator and facilitate a process for public engagement and input for the scope of the project.” The board also said it “approved a statement of work to develop a business plan that includes, among other things, economic and environmental impact studies.”
“In addition to the adoption of a budget, the board established a technical committee to advise the board on issues relating to economic impact, environmental considerations, transportation planning and other issues related to the planning efforts,” it added.
Source: Desormeaux, Hailey. “Shippers Leveraging America’s Inland Ports.” Full Stories – Caption as the Content – ASD Version | FullASD | American Shipper, 26 Oct. 2018, www.americanshipper.com/main/fullasd/shippers-leveraging-americas-inland-ports-72779.aspx?utm_source=AS%2BDaily%2BNewsletter&utm_campaign=a5697d835d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_10_26_05_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_485fa13138-a5697d835d-62904497.
As many American consumers embrace holistic health and are making healthier and fresher food choices, there are impacts to the country’s food supply chain. For retail grocers to capture market share, they must be able to guarantee the highest quality product at the lowest prices, giving transportation providers a vital role in the logistics of getting fresh or perishable foods to the end consumer quickly and efficiently.
This process is not simple and is only getting more complex. There is a significant and worsening labor shortfall in the trucking industry that affects critical pickup and delivery times across the country.
Heinkel’s Packing Co., Inc., based in Decatur, Ill., ships a variety of meat products to grocery stores and restaurants in 42 states, primarily by truck from the Midwest Inland Port.
“In our line of business, the biggest challenge we deal with is shippers not showing up on time—with several shipments going out at the same time, everything needs to be refrigerated,” says Wes Heinkel, president of Heinkel’s. “The inland port can give us a big advantage against competing manufacturers in Chicago.”
Trucking delays can often exceed seven days in major markets, which leaves food far from fresh. Seafood and other perishable foods that come from coasts need to be flown inland and get to their destinations quickly. Metropolitan cities with the heaviest wait times throughout the Midwest include Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Kansas City.
Producers are in need of alternatives to get their goods to the final destination on time and are turning to solutions outside of the traditionally-used congested areas. They are finding that inland ports with access to highways, rail, and air can serve as central transportation hubs, and help them overcome current transportation challenges.
What’s Driving the Issue
The global fresh food packaging market is growing rapidly due to various government initiatives toward food safety and an upsurge for small portion food items, or demand for single-use packaging. Ready-to-eat and fresh products are one of the few segments of the industry that has shown consistent growth within the last few years.
Fresh sales comprise nearly one-third of food industry sales, according to website data from IRI. In a 2016 retail report from United Fresh Produce Association, sales of fresh produce rose 1.5 percent more in volume and 3.6 percent in weekly dollar sales. The global fresh food packaging market is estimated to grow at 4 percent annually over the next five years.
The logistics infrastructure of supply procurement, transport, storage, and end customer delivery is even more complicated when temperature-control and perishability come into play. This cold supply chain requires knowing when, where, and how your shipments are moving and constantly searching for innovations and improvements to current processes.
The clock is always ticking for fresh food delivery, from the time the food is ready to leave the supplier until it reaches store shelves. Equipment and technology are imperative to prolong the freshness of product, addressing the constant concern of spoilage, and the even more worrisome consumer health scare. The fresh supply chain must be faster and more focused on quality from producer to the final destination. With industry-imposed shelf life and sell-by dates, maintaining the integrity of the food is paramount.
Fresh Food Delivery Quickly Reaching More Retailers
When it comes to distributing fresh food, location matters. The Midwest Inland Port is a multi-modal hub located in Decatur, Ill., that delivers both domestic and international flexibility for companies through a well-positioned transportation corridor connecting the Midwest to the East, West, and Gulf Coasts of North America.
The market is consistently growing for easy access to fresh food, and quality—not price—is what often drives consumer satisfaction. That translates into new strategies to deliver highly perishable food as quick as possible. While retailers use various approaches to address perishability during shipment—such as picking and shipping produce that ripens en route or cutting fruit in-store—the most common request from grocers is simply more frequent deliveries with tighter time windows.
Decatur’s centralized geography allows for a one-day truck drive distribution reach to more than 95 million consumers within a 500-mile radius. There are more food and beverage expenditures in a 500-mile radius of Decatur than most other Midwestern cities: $284 billion from Decatur, $251 billion from Chicago, and $278 billion from St. Louis.
Decatur is home to global food giants Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Tate & Lyle. The Midwest Inland Port’s location can also provide a solution for smaller companies, like National Foodworks Services, a food incubator like many around the country taking hold to provide a more cost-effective solution to develop, market, and move goods; Soozie’s Doozies, a cookie dough company that moved to Decatur from St. Louis after they won ADM’s Food Innovation Challenge; and Stratas Foods, a supplier of fats and oils to the food service, food ingredients, and retail private label markets in North America.
Strategically located, the logistics complex encompasses rail, air, and trucking—offering uncongested, toll-free access to one of the country’s heaviest trucking and railway traffic flows, connected to Interstates 72, 55, 74, 57, and U.S. Highway 51.
In addition to its highway and rail networks, Decatur has a 2,000-acre airport with 8,400-foot runways capable of supporting wide-body cargo aircraft. The quick-access airport benefits companies transporting seafood and other perishable foods coming from the coasts that need to be flown in for Midwest territory distribution.
There’s also direct access to three Class 1 Railroads (NS, CN, CSX) connecting to all North American rail networks. And the ADM Intermodal ramp with 25-minute average turn times allows drivers to spend more time on the road covering greater distances rather than sitting in long lines cutting into valuable drive time.
Rural King, a farm and home store based 40 miles southeast of Decatur in Mattoon, Ill., has over 100 stores in 13 states. It relies on the inland port for some imports that are railed to Decatur from Canada and Los Angeles. The company picks up those goods with its own trucks and takes them to its distribution center at Mattoon.
“We used to bring everything in through Chicago. The wait time and delays continuously stalled on-time delivery,” says Alex Melvin, president of Rural King. “It made sense for us to move to the Midwest Inland Port. The ease of use and savings in both time and dollars has had a positive impact on our logistics operations.”
Getting fresh goods to market that are still fresh upon arrival remains a major challenge for retailers around the country. Taking advantage of inland ports can relieve pressure for companies that need quick turnaround and transport times.
Business Facilities Magazine’s 14th Annual Metro Rankings are in and the Decatur area received a first-place ranking in their Agricultural Bioscience Employment category. Their editors based their ranking on agricultural feedstock employment leaders from the 2018 BIO Report. The agricultural feedstock and industrial biosciences subsector applies life sciences knowledge, biochemistry and biotechnologies to the processing and production of agricultural goods as well as organic and agricultural chemicals. The subsector also includes activities around the production of biofuels and feedstocks for biobased polymers. Examples of such products include: corn and soybean oil, ethanol and biodiesel fuels, plastics and textiles synthesized from plant-based feedstock, and biobased ingredients for cosmetics, personal care products, flavors and fragrances.
“People are astounded when they learn about the array of products that are produced by Decatur, Illinois companies,” said Ryan McCrady, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur-Macon County. “A first-place ranking highlighting our prominence in the agricultural bioscience sector recognizes Decatur’s strong workforce and grabs the attention of companies looking to expand their businesses into the Midwest.”
The Decatur Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had twice the number of people employed in the feedstock and biosciences subsector compared to second-place finisher Houston, Texas and three times that of the Chicago MSA. Decatur is home to global companies like ADM and Tate & Lyle, and a broad-based network of ancillary and supporting businesses.
“ADM’s operations in Decatur — and our people here — have been instrumental to our company’s success for generations,” said Chris Cuddy, ADM senior vice president and president of the company’s Carbohydrate Solutions business unit. “Today, while our company is doing business in more places around the world than ever before, Decatur remains home to more ADM colleagues than any other single location in our global network, and we will continue to work with community leaders to promote Decatur as a great place to live, work and do business.”
Shown above are the Metropolitan Statistical Areas with the Largest Employment Levels in Agricultural Feedstock and Industrial Biosciences, 2016. Source: Biotechnology Innovation Organization
About the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County
The Economic Development Corporation of Decatur & Macon County is a nonprofit public-private partnership responsible for non-retail business attraction, expansion and retention efforts in Decatur & Macon County. Composed of a combination of leading private sector employers, labor, educational institutions and a variety of governmental bodies, the EDC is uniquely positioned to address the needs of Macon County’s existing business and employer base along with prospective businesses looking to locate in and around the Decatur, Illinois area. The EDC works with local, state and federal partners to provide economic, technical and training assistance to businesses in the Macon County area.
On the Surface: Chicago Bypass While traditional big city freight hubs grapple with congestion, a new crop of rural inland ports is springing up as shippers look for efficiencies.
When people think of intermodal, Chicago often comes to mind.
After all, the Windy City is the nation’s busiest rail freight gateway and the third-largest intermodal container/trailer port in the world, following Singapore and Hong Kong, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Many shippers routing their freight through Chicago face significant congestion, myriad tolls and other ancillary expenses. However, there’s an alternative to this traditional freight transportation hub emerging about 160 miles southwest at Decatur, Ill.
Decatur’s Midwest Inland Port features an intermodal ramp; direct access to Class I railroads CSX, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern; toll-free access to Interstates 72, 55, 74, and 57 and U.S. Highway 51; and an airport.
Although the railroads and airport have been operating in Decatur a long time, grain producer and shipper ADM built an intermodal ramp there five years ago and opened it to other companies’ freight in 2015, Nicole Bateman, executive director of the Midwest Inland Port, told American Shipper.
The port would not divulge total freight volumes due to its affiliation with ADM, which keeps its volumes through the Decatur hub confidential. However, Bateman said third-party volumes on the intermodal ramp grew 20 percent in 2016 and another 20 percent last year. The port is seeing a combination of existing customer volume increases, as well as new customer development, she said.
Users of the Midwest Inland Port also have experienced savings in freight transportation costs and significant reduction in transit times, Bateman said.
While Chicago may have trucks, it does not have the chassis, and that is where the issue comes into play for many of the region’s shippers, Bateman explained, adding that Decatur has the chassis, trucks and quick turn times.
“In larger [Midwest] cities, it’s been difficult to arrange trucks and drivers in a timely manner, leading to delays beyond seven days in Chicago, and up to seven days in Indianapolis and St. Louis,” Bateman said. “This adds box detention charges at intermodal ramps, so not only are customers losing time, but they’re losing money.”
Instead of sitting at a ramp in Chicago, where the average wait time could be an hour and a half to two hours, or five hours at peak time, the average wait time at ADM’s intermodal ramp in Decatur is 24 minutes, and 57 minutes at peak time, she explained.
Ryan McCrady, president of the economic development corporation of Decatur and Macon County, told American Shipper businesses of all sizes are attracted to the Midwest Inland Port, adding that even companies not shipping full train loads can use the facility and its assets.
He explained that the inland port is a good option for shipments where Chicago is not the final destination. However, he said Decatur is in no position to compete with Chicago, but rather to complement it.
T/CCI Manufacturing, a maker of heavy-duty truck compressors, has used the Midwest Inland Port for the past two years, said Kara Demirjian-Huss, the company’s global marketing director. She noted the company has a plant in Ningbo, China, which ships its containers from Shanghai to Prince Rupert, Canada. The containers are then placed on Canadian National trains en route to Decatur.
Prior to using the Midwest Inland Port, T/CCI’s containers were shipped from Shanghai to Los Angeles, where they were transported by rail to Joliet, Ill., and then trucked another 180 miles south to Decatur, Demirjian-Huss said.
T/CCI’s products are heavy, and the prior route required the company to use 20-foot containers. However, this new route with CN allows the company’s products to be transported in 40-foot containers, resulting in substantial cost savings.
T/CCI estimates that it saves between $400,000 and $500,000 annually by using the Midwest Inland Port, said Dennis Flaherty, vice president of global operations at T/CCI. As the company expands its use of the Decatur rail hub, it expects those transportation cost savings to rise, he added.
Rural King, a farm and home store based 40 miles southeast of Decatur in Mattoon, Ill., also relies on the Midwest Inland Port.
In an interview, Alex Melvin, CEO of Rural King, said prior to using the Midwest Inland Port, his company relied heavily on Chicago, which was a mess. He said the Decatur operation provides Rural King with much better service.
Rural King relies on the inland port for some imports, which are railed to Decatur from Canada and Los Angeles. The company picks up those goods with its own trucks and takes them to its distribution center at Mattoon.
Overall, Rural King has about 2,000 containers per year now coming to the Midwest Inland Port.
Melvin said the benefits of using the Midwest Inland Port are that Rural King is able to keep less on-hand inventory because it’s able to receive its goods quicker. Rural King also has lowered its operations costs by not relying on trucks coming from Chicago.
While traditional big city freight hubs continue to grapple with congestion, a new crop of rural inland ports, like Decatur, will inevitably spring up in the coming years as the nation’s shippers increasingly look to them for efficiencies.
Source: Desormeaux, Hailey. “On the Surface: Chicago Bypass.” American Shipper, 8 May 2018, www.americanshipper.com/main/fullasd/on-the-surface-chicago-bypass-71286.aspx.
A $50,000 contribution from Ameren Illinois will aid leaders of the Midwest Inland Port in attracting new, job-creating investment to the freight transportation hub. The commitment was announced at a March 20th luncheon organized by the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur – Macon County to brief area leaders on recent achievements of the EDC and advancement of the two initiatives it oversees, the Midwest Inland Port and the Limitless Decatur & Macon County community marketing campaign.
The Midwest Inland Port is the strategic development of Decatur as Illinois’ designated downstate freight transportation hub with a focus on broad-based economic development throughout the central Illinois region and on relieving rail and highway congestion in Chicago.
“This is an investment in building the future of Decatur and Macon County,” said Ron Pate, Senior Vice President of Operations and Technical Services for Ameren Illinois, who spoke at the luncheon on behalf of the company. “The EDC has demonstrated that it has a plan to stimulate growth to benefit the entire region. We believe in the EDC and the MIP and we’re stepping up to help them reach their goals.”
Pate outlined a handful of projects Ameren Illinois is undertaking to modernize its electric and natural gas energy delivery system and boost capacity to accommodate future growth in the community. Over the last six years, the company has created more than 800 jobs throughout its service territory in central and southern Illinois.
“Ameren Illinois is a committed partner in the development of our community and this investment is a perfect example,” said Nicole Bateman, Executive Director of the Midwest Inland Port. “They’ve served as the supplier of electricity and natural gas for the Decatur community for over 100 years as Ameren Illinois, and before that as Illinois Power and its predecessor companies. Their support of the MIP, both financially and in expertise, demonstrates their recognition of strategic initiatives that spearhead a community’s economic development efforts. We sincerely appreciate their support.”
The organizations that comprise the Midwest Inland Port Strategic Development Coalition represent a combination of global, national, regional and local perspectives and capabilities that are critical to realizing the full potential of the Midwest Inland Port development. In addition to Ameren Illinois, members of the Coalition include ADM, CN Railroad, Decatur Memorial Hospital, Clayco, OmniTRAX, and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.