电子商务环境下图书物流现状的研究-Fourth Forum on Intermodal Freight Transport Between Europe and the United States

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Fourth Forum on Intermodal Freight Transport Between Europe and the United States

 

Executive Summary

 

Efficient transport is indispensable for economic growth and prosperity, particularly as national and regional economies become globally interconnected.  Intermodal transport is a necessary component of an efficient transport network at both national and international levels.  Throughout the developed world, bottlenecks in the transport system are becoming worse, and environmental concerns are mounting, making it imperative to address the transport system in an holistic, multimodal manner.  In this regard, an efficient intermodal network can be particularly appealing given that intermodal transport is very environmentally-beneficent.  From April 4 to April 6, 2001, more than 50 top leaders in transport from Europe and the United States met in Genoa, Italy, to discuss steps to improve intermodal freight transport.  This meeting continued a dialogue between officials of the European Commission, the U.S. Department of Transportation and leaders in transport industries that began in October 1997.  Their goals are to improve intermodal transport by building better understanding of the complex set of issues that affect it, and to help independent organizations, both public and private, coordinate their activities into an integrated whole. 

 

Electronic commerce will profoundly change how intermodal transport is provided and how it is used, but not without further trial and error. The potential is large: rapid growth in business-to-business e-commerce will create new demand for intermodal transport services.  Advances in e-commerce will make transport faster as well as lower its administrative costs.  Nevertheless, many recent attempts to market transport-related innovations have suffered the same fate as e-commerce applications in other sectors, and have not been financial successes.  But it would be shortsighted to conclude that e-commerce has been oversold.  Rather, its impact on transport, which has the potential to be profound, is only dimly starting to emerge. More shake-out is expected.  Perhaps few if any of the today’s products and developers of new applications will be recognizable five years from now, but transport system operations then will certainly be markedly different due to shifts stemming from them.

 

Alleviation of system bottlenecks is essential.  This requires resolving complex issues and doing careful planning.  For example, Chicago is a key interface point between 12 individual railroads, but transfer of freight from one carrier to another often requires truck haulage to move it across the Chicago region.  This is costly and it adds to local highway congestion and environmental problems.  To improve this situation, a consortium of railroads called the Chicago Gateway Project is considering ways to connect the numerous rail hubs scattered across the region.  They have made a number of operational improvements and are developing proposals to avoid inefficient rail line crossings and urban truck connections.

 

Freight movements on European highways are becoming increasingly burdensome due to their congestion and environmental effects.  Greater use of non-highway modes can help ease these stresses.  An innovative Genoa-Barcelona short-sea-shipping operation illustrates the potential to use inexpensive, environmentally advantageous water transport as an alternative to rail, although this has yet to be a business success.  Major port investments to develop a hub-and-spoke ocean shipping system based around the Gioia Tauro port show that the dramatic potential of short sea shipping can be quickly realized.  In the United States, operational improvements in the San Pedro terminal increased its efficiency considerably, and further gains could be made if activity could be spread more evenly on a seven days a week, 24 hour a day basis.

 

Similar challenges are faced in integrating transport services on both sides of the Atlantic.  Solutions involve actions of three types:

  • Strategic development of plans to alleviate specific bottlenecks, including consideration of operational improvements;
  • Increased public/private cooperation to help all parties work in areas of mutual interest; and
  • Creation of competitive structures that more fully reflect social concerns and that encourage greater coordination of processes and procedures.

 

Two large public/private partnerships now in different stages of development – the Alameda Corridor in the United States and the Betuwe Line Project between the Netherlands and Germany – show that good planning and extensive cooperation can promote network improvements.  They also illustrate the political and financial complexities that must be overcome to realize this potential.  It takes decades to build the cooperation and to assemble the resources needed for success.  Each situation is unique and requires a carefully tailored solution.  Governments need a flexible array of models for forming partnerships with all interested parties.

 

Both European and U.S. participants believe that it would be valuable to participate in cooperative projects in which they work together to improve intermodal transport.  In this regard, they asked their respective governments to appoint a working group to review all opportunities for joint cooperation and to advance those that appear most promising.  This cooperation will help to improve operations and increase the economic and environmental benefits that come from an effective intermodal network.

 

The advantages of intermodal transport make this a priority for further EU-US cooperation.  Economic growth, demographics, and e-commerce are increasing freight traffic on a network in which many parts have already reached capacity.  New solutions are essential.  The benefits of deregulation have mostly been realized, and future gains in productivity will rely on further improvements to facilities and operations.  Further, all modes face looming capacity constraints and insufficient resources to alleviate them. Financing intermodal operational and infrastructure improvement will be difficult in an era of increasing demand and limited resources.  Industry and government are struggling to identify ways to meet significant future demand.  More public/private partnerships are needed, building upon approaches that have proven to be successful in the past.  The European Community and the United States can each make more progress by comparing experiences, best practices, and opportunities for improvement.

 

 

Background and Purpose

 

Traffic on congested European highways, particularly truck traffic, is becoming an ever-larger problem.  European GDP is forecast to grow by three percent per year for the next decade, reported Kerstin Sterner, and continuation of current freight trends appears unsustainable. The status quo will not meet the needs of industry nor provide the quality of life expected by citizens. It is vital that effective solutions be found, because inadequate transport threatens to impair international trade and hurt economic growth. Intermodal transport has the potential to accommodate economic growth without increasing the volume of road traffic.  European policy seeks to seize these advantages, and encourages intermodal transport through a variety of policies, including reform of infrastructure charges to reflect the full cost of services, including environmental costs.  Further, the pending inclusion of ports within the Trans European Network will bring new financial assistance to port development.  The future of the ports and the success of intermodalism are inextricably linked.

 

The United States faces severe congestion at a number of ports, rail lines, highway corridors, and interchange points.  Intermodal services are competitive in many markets.  The range of competitiveness of such services is a market equilibrium.  It is influenced by corporate investment, technological improvements, and infrastructure performance.  Public policy also influences this equilibrium.  In the United States, recent legislative provisions on financial support for highways have made it possible to use federal funds for “intermodal connectors” that link highways to other modes.  This makes it possible for the multimodal network to function more like an integrated system.

 

Market and technological changes are redefining how transport fits within the economy.  The new economy reshapes the flows of product, the positioning of inventory, and the return of finished goods.  It opens the doors to new participants: even small companies can now enter international trade.  The era when transport companies use technology is being replaced by one in which technology companies use transport.

 

This forum, like others before it, aims to increase understanding and cooperation.  The issues are complex, and will take years to resolve.  There are no quick fixes and little likelihood of success for actions taken in isolation. Rather, improvements in intermodal transport are the result of many separate actions – actions by governments, by industry, and by combinations of these. The business decisions of each participant in this forum influences the effectiveness of the intermodal network.  The aim of this forum is to create a fuller system-wide understanding so that individual steps will collectively result in a more efficient, more continuous, more effective intermodal network.

 

Such mutual understanding has an important payoff, but even more is possible and desirable.  In particular, joint projects that increase operational coordination between European and U.S. organizations can speed the development of better systems.  Another aim of this forum is to identify and begin active projects in which European and U.S. interests cooperate in putting good ideas into practice.

 

E-Commerce and Intermodal Transport

 

The emergence of e-commerce is one of the key changes affecting the prospects of intermodal transport.  E-commerce widens the range of competition and the resultant freight flows.  It allows transport and logistics firms to achieve new heights of operational efficiency.  It eliminates the need for physical transfer of documentation related to transport.  This potential, and the changes actually being experienced, were addressed by Carmine G. Biancardi.  In his view, efficiency and competitiveness depend upon network organization, specifically maintaining an open and sustainable transport market, and on making efficient use of the existing infrastructure.  This requires an intermodal approach to transport, in order to achieve a modal shift away from highways, to integrate short-sea shipping into the logistics chain, and to improve the safety and efficiency of intermodal transport.

 

Intermodal transport enjoys new opportunities with the emergence of e-business, which encourages carriers to integrate services based on a larger electronic network. As part of their own business processes, carriers are establishing new electronic interfaces with their partners.  All parties engaged in intermodal transport are modernizing their interoperability and interconnectivity, and improving the flow of information between systems.  They are making increased use of computerized re-routing and scheduling, and standardized tracking and tracing.

 

Business-to-business e-commerce is growing rapidly and this will continue.  In the nine months between October 1999 and June 2000, the number of business-to-business e-commerce marketplaces worldwide has more than doubled.  The largest increases have been in the building industry; agriculture, fish, and flowers; health; finance and insurance; and logistics. In North America the number of markets nearly tripled:  from 248 to 726, while in Europe it increased fourfold, from 56 to 224.  As this growth continues, it will either require retailers increasingly to act as distribution agents or producers to consolidate the orders of individual customers.

 

Such market changes pose new transport challenges by increasing the number of consignments and imposing larger transport distances.  They require that the quality and efficiency of logistics services be increased so that shipments are punctual, safe, and traceable.  Global networking is essential to do this.  It poses new opportunities for logistics firms.  They may be able to outsource their logistics capabilities to their customers; they may be able to integrate the systems vertically and offer e-supply-chain management; they may be able to provide additional assembly or financial services; and they may be able to capture more of the reverse-logistics market.

 

The development of the internet has forced companies to extend their business models to embrace the entire supply chain, observed David Simchi-Levi.  There has been a rapid and costly learning curve here.  When the capabilities of the Internet first appeared, many expected that supply chain problems would be finally resolved.  E-business strategies were supposed to reduce costs, improve service, allow more flexibility, and boost profits.  Realizing these benefits has been a difficult struggle, and some firms have met their downfall trying to grasp them.  Many early investors in e-commerce – like those who invested in Living.com, Furniture.com, or Peapod – have experienced disappointing to disastrous results. 

 

The initial forays into supply-chain management applied a “push” perspective, in which production and distribution decisions were based on long-term forecasts.  Forecasts of retail sales would drive retailer orders up, would get wholesalers and distributors to plan high inventory to be able to meet orders, and would encourage factory managers to seek the economies of large production runs.  The effect of the “push” model is that each link in the supply chain would experience increases in variability directly related to its lead time.  The short ups and downs experienced by retailers would get progressively magnified into larger cycles by wholesalers and distributors, and would be magnified further into huge, long-term cycles by producers.  This “bullwhip effect” is characteristic of “push” supply chains, and firms that have used them have experienced excessive inventory, large and variable production batches, unacceptable service levels, and ineffective resource management. 

 

In concept, a purely demand-driven “pull” supply-chain management strategy could avoid all these problems.  It would respond to real customer demand, not forecasts.  Firms would hold no inventory, and produce all goods to order.  Unfortunately, Simchi-Levi finds that such a strategy is not operational due to lead-time constraints and the diseconomies of small-scale production that would be entailed.

 

In parallel with the emergence of the Internet, a number of industries have moved from push strategies to pull strategies and then to hybrids.  Today, firms exploiting supply-chain management capabilities are finding that a hybrid “push-pull” strategy allows them to apply a push-based approach to the production stages and a pull-based one to the market stages.  Dell Computers is a good example, using a strategy of delayed differentiation.  At Dell, the generic product is built and transported based on long-term forecasts, thereby achieving production and transport scale economies.  Product differentiation occurs only after a customer order is placed, via assembly from generic components.  This strategy minimizes the inventory of fully finished product, but it recognizes inventory of generic components as a necessary compromise.

 

Transport is being fundamentally reshaped by these recent hybrid push-pull strategies in the grocery, book, and general retail industries.  The appropriate strategy depends on industry and company specifics, but when customer demand is highly uncertain, it is advantageous to manage more of the supply chain in a pull-based fashion.  This has several important implications for transport.  It implies a shift in fulfillment strategies from cases and bulk shipments to single items and smaller size shipments.  It entails a shift away from shipping to a small number of stores to serving highly dispersed customers.  It places new importance on reverse logistics, and complicates the process of reverse logistics.

 

Dynamic and flexible pricing are increasingly being used to cope with variability in demand.  They can reduce the bullwhip effect and balance sales variability with production efficiencies. Supply-chain collaboration, in which separate business partners at different points along the supply chain share information, coordinate plans, or create supply-chain communities, are another promising way to balance the opposing concerns at opposite ends of the supply chain. 

 

Supply-chain visibility is one of the key tools for combating the bullwhip effect.  By sharing actual demand information at each point along the chain, partners can coordinate production and distribution more efficiently, as well as reduce lead times.  This creates a new opportunity for logistics firms, which have information that they could use to boost supply-chain visibility.  They will face increased opportunities to work with retailers, manufacturers, distributors, carriers, freight forwarders, and other trading partners to apply this information in ways that improve customer service and profitability.

 

E-commerce is still very small – only about 0.6 percent of the market in the United States.  We are in the very early stages of a new technology.  The outcomes are difficult to predict.  There may be very few winners in the first round.  Even in the area of logistics, the 200 firms engaged in e-commerce represent only 3 percent of the market.  It is possible that many, maybe even all, could fail. 

 

The collapse of many dot.coms shows that new technology brings not only great opportunities but also great risks.  The presumption of many of the failed companies was that there was no need for physical infrastructure or inventory.  Today there is a renewed recognition of the need to hold inventory and acceptance of strategies that push this need up the supply chain.

 

Many of the early transport applications of e-commerce were based on auctioning of capacity, and some of these exchanges will survive and grow.  Another challenging transport market involving the Internet is learning how to move information better. All in all, however, changes appear to be more evolutionary than revolutionary.

 

Transport expectations will grow tougher as a result of e-commerce, which is training customers to order at the last minute.  Businesses have done the easy part, namely managing the demand side to avoid inventory.  But on the supply side, they may not be building the rapport that is essential in relationship-driven business situations.  The strains created by last-minute fulfillment need to be matched by strengthened supply-side partnerships if e-commerce is to continue to grow in transport.  The real gains in e-commerce may come with increased sharing in the supply chain in the vertical direction.  An example of this can be found in Holland, where a few manufacturers and two retailers formed new vertical partnerships.  E-commerce will lead to unfamiliar working relationships, and with trial and error we will gain a clearer understanding of the limits of those relationships.

 

Carriers can use this new era to separate the movement of goods and the movement of information about goods.  Carriers clearly control the first part, but they are also in a good position to capture the second part.  Valuable information is created each time a bill of lading is written. One can imagine a situation in which carriers create a collective portal where, for example, carriers as a group could depict current flows to Asia.  There could be great value to such information, and markets could develop around it, but carriers will miss this potential if independent third parties come to dominate the production of bills of lading.

 

E-commerce can also contribute to better asset management.  New systems allow owners to know where their assets are, and may open the door to asset sharing.  Company-specific containers and chassis contribute to a system where there is an inefficient excess of such assets.  “Gray” containers furnished by some third party might offer an efficient solution as well as a profit-making opportunity.  After all, most shippers probably do not care whose name is on the container.  In Europe, where the distribution network is very fragmented, separate firms are sharing warehouses and creating distribution portals.

 

Transport applications of e-commerce have produced their share of disappointments, just as in other areas of application.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad is now writing off a $25 million investment in a web-based system to facilitate barter exchange of truckload traffic, aiming to begin with truck shipments and then move into rail.  There proved to be too little trucker demand to make the system viable.  Logistics firms also report disappointing results, but are seeking to boost their capacity to serve as advisors to their customers, even to the point of placing their own personnel in their customers’ offices.

 

The cost of transport is going up in many instances, and shifts toward more small packages and more instantaneous services will not only drive costs further up, but will contribute to social costs which will be increasingly unbearable.  Railroads, in particular, face a challenging situation as asset-laden companies in an ever more virtual world.  The foundation of the rail industry – bulk movements – will still be there, but e-business adds a new multi-faceted layer to all production processes.  Progress in supply-chain management will add to this new layer, which creates transport problems.  It is not possible to ensure reliability on some rail routes.  Curing bottlenecks requires massive investment.  Having traffic with different priority on the same network is operationally difficult.

 

With more customers, and more small shipments, it will be increasingly difficult for railroads to provide the reliability that customers want.  Recent capital investments that railroads have made have been disappointing.  The net return on investment in U.S. railroads has been only 9.5 percent in the best of recent years.  Rail industry executives anticipate that the United States needs to reconsider how rail is supplied.   “Who will make the investment?” appears to be an open question in the United States as well as in Europe.

 

E-commerce has been highlighted as a key driver of new transport paradigms for a number of years now.  Most still believe that it has the potential to lead to profound changes in logistics management.  But unlike several years ago, today most carriers and logistics companies have a somewhat more tentative, cautious view of when and how this potential will be realized. Different parties have varied visions of where it will lead – whether gray boxes, vertical supply-chain integration, or other innovations.  Many of the earliest new forays here have been disappointing or worse and many more false-steps and failures appear likely.  This may encourage a somewhat more cautious “one step at a time” approach, but it does not diminish the sense that there are sizable benefits to be gained through ways that e-commerce and transport may come together. 

 

New intermodal service features may also enhance the potential for developmental and environmental benefits.  As private concerns continue to seek ways to optimize their use of resources, it is important that the associated benefits to society be kept in the picture as well. 

 

Best Practices in Intermodal Transport

 

Intermodal traffic has been increasing. There are now 9.2 million intermodal shipments per year in the United States, up threefold from 20 years ago.  In spite of the long reach of each railroad’s routes, the United States rail system nevertheless has inefficient bottlenecks, one of which is Chicago.  Paul Nowicke from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe reported that the Chicago is the World’s third largest interchanger of intermodal traffic – second only to the ports of Hong Kong and Singapore. As is apparent from Figure 1, Chicago is a key hub in the U.S. rail network.   (The widths of the lines in Figure 1 are proportional to volume of intermodal freight traffic.)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1.  Intermodal Freight Volumes in the United States

 

 

Separate intermodal hubs – 17 in all – compete for this traffic. Intermodal shipments are often carried by truck from one railroad to another on the other side of Chicago.  These cross-town services operate on local streets and generally do not share information.   The result is that one third of all interchange miles are empty, a system that is very inefficient and damaging to the local environment.  Starting eight years ago, railroads joined together to form the Chicago Gateway Project to develop solutions to this bottleneck.  To date, this has resulted in the investment of some $420 million in infrastructure improvement.  It has also resulted in the creation in 1999 of an operations coordination office to bring more efficiency to the complex system, which includes 137 rail interlockings between 12 companies, controlled by 13 separate dispatch centers.  The initial results are very encouraging.  Transit times averaged about 5 hours in 1999 when the operations coordination began.  This fell to about 3 hours in 2000, and under 3 hours for the first part of this year.  This is good, but it does not get at the root problems, according to Nowi />

 

 

 

 

 

Exports

Imports

Figure 2a.  Exports and Imports Projected for U.S. Gateways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2b.  Traffic distribution for Freight Moving in or out of Charleston SC

 

 

 

 

 

 

This level of geographic and graphic detail is a powerful tool for visualizing bottlenecks that may come with future growth in trade.  Maring projected that from 1998 to 2020, freight tonnage will increase at about three percent per year or nearly double over that time period. To examine the implications of this growth, Maring plans to translate these forecasts into traffic assignments along specific parts of the network.  This will allow policy makers to gain a better understanding of emerging constraints and to develop illustrative multi-modal case studies.  It will provide a framework for “what-if” studies of alternative policies relative to each transport mode.

 

Policy makers will face difficult choices.  Both passenger and freight traffic will increase significantly.  Freight, for example, will nearly double by 2020.  Current facilities are not adequate to handle such volumes, but plans and financing are not in place to upgrade them.  Neither can current operational practices sustain this magnitude of growth.  The Federal Highway Administration plans to conduct a national freight summit in December 2001 to review future policy options. This will help all parties gain a better grasp of emerging constraints and ways to address them, including possible federal legislative changes as part of the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization.

 

Deregulation of U.S. railroads through the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 and the Staggers Act of 1980 has improved efficiency dramatically.  Robert Martinez reported that in the period from 1980 to 1996, railroads carried more than 50 percent more freight, even as they reduced their track by 35 percent, cut their stock of locomotives by 32 percent, decreased the number of wagons by 27 percent, and eliminated 60 percent of their employees.  These efficiencies have been passed on to shippers through rate reductions.  The rail revenue per ton-mile (adjusted for inflation) fell 57 percent during this period.  Most rail freight (70 percent) moves under special confidential contracts; 18 percent is potentially subject to regulation because of a cost-related threshold in the law, and 12 percent is exempt by definition.  As a generalization, Martinez observed that U.S. railroads had responded to deregulation with a cost-reducing strategy rather than a service-increasing one.

 

Looking ahead, Martinez sees a new era for both railroads and trucks.  While deregulation has been strongly positive for both trucks and rail, many of the easier benefits from deregulation have played themselves out.  The “highway model” provided by the Eisenhower-era interstate legislation is also approaching the end of easy additional capacity.  Both truck and rail modes are destined to face increasing congestion.  Patchwork fixes will not solve the problem.  Martinez argues that the United States is at the point where highway financing practices should reflect the ability of non-highway modes to alleviate congestion.  This consideration could be helped by collection of more complete and reliable truck origin-destination data as they would yield insights into where investments in additional capacity (both public and private) would yield the greatest returns.  Rail freight data are already extensive and fairly robust.   Further, future legislation should broaden the flexibility granted to regions to undertake multimodal projects that yield highway benefits, even if they are not themselves focused directly on highway improvements.  Also, Martinez would like to see a connectors and terminals program similar to the borders and corridors program now in place.

 

Within the industry, Jeffrey Crowe predicts a massive consolidation down to a few “best of class” companies in the trucking industry.  They will be the ones who recognize that they are in the information business.  He warned against interpreting the failure of dot.coms as a sign that the Internet is not important.  Technology will continue to differentiate companies, and it is vital to exploit its business potential.  Safety will likewise remain critical to success.  The coming competition will be intensified by a slowing economy, high fuel and energy costs, a hardening insurance market, and lack of market liquidity.  There will be winners and losers, and this is all part of a healthy market response.  Crowe argues that less economic regulation is always better than more regulation, and that policy makers should remain dispassionate and let the market decide the outcome during the turbulent years ahead.

 

Railroad executives responded that in a fair situation, the best-in-class should win, but in actuality there is not always a level playing field.  Government rules can tilt the outcomes.  Industry may face harsh financial outcomes, whether the Government set the right rules or not.

 

The growth in U.S. intermodal operations has been hampered by increases in drayage costs, stemming from drayage operations running 50 percent empty.  These have more than offset reductions in terminal costs. The result is that the line where rail intermodal service becomes competitive with truck has gone up, and is now typically around 850 miles.

 

Railroad interests agreed that the gains of U.S. deregulation have already been captured, and further productivity gains in the future will require changing other time-honored traditions.  Two of these were highlighted in the discussion.  One is moving toward transcontinental rail networks.  Rail executives see the response to recent rail mergers as an over-reaction, and argue that U.S. railroads are too small for the territory.  The other is rethinking the traditional ways in which governments distribute resources.  The key is finding the resources, somehow, to make rail services more reliable.  The lackluster profits history of U.S. railroads makes it unlikely that private financing will be available to accomplish this. Nor do private financiers recognize the public benefits in highway operations that would result.  Short-haul rail services will not significantly change the overall picture. 

 

Future rail productivity gains hinge chiefly on further consolidation, which is not politically acceptable now, in the United States or in Europe.  Indeed, the challenge in Europe may be greater, where it is necessary not only to merge companies, but in effect to merge countries as well.

 

Deregulation is not a clear action that automatically yields a market optimum, but is typically a reaction to a situation where the rules have become counterproductive.  Fixing those rules through deregulation is a tricky business, as the recent energy experience in California illustrates.  U. S. rail executives were leery of deregulation that separated infrastructure and traction. Governments are political bodies, and when political bodies set prices, they are apt to disrupt the market.  U.S. executives do not believe that it is possible to separate infrastructure and traction effectively. European leaders do not believe that Europe could return to privatized rail infrastructure.  Unlike in the United States, where it is possible to go from almost any one point to another with a few railroads, in Europe a large number of railroads may be required.  European leaders argue that there is not just one way to deregulate, and that the European model must reflect the unique circumstances there.

 

 

Further European/U.S. Cooperation in Intermodal Freight Transport

 

The discussions at the Genoa forum were useful in suggesting better ways of working together.  Participants suggested continuing the dialogue at a similar meeting in the spring of 2002.  In addition, they believe that there it would be valuable to participate in cooperative projects in which they work together to improve intermodal transport between the two regions, and explored a number of possible alternatives including extending tracking and tracing systems to cover international, intermodal movements; use of process mapping as a guide to improving the intermodal system, application of performance measures to intermodal service, and research on batteries suitable for inside-container applications.  The next set of tenders in the EC Fifth Framework program includes a focus on the security and safety of intermodal transport units, and this could provide a working arrangement for increased European/U.S. cooperation. Participants decided that it would be helpful to form a European/U.S. working group to review all of the other opportunities for joint cooperation that were discussed and to seek ways to advance those that appear mutually promising.

 

Better intermodal freight transport is a top priority, and policy should continue to support it.  Transport systems are at capacity in both Europe and the United States due to population increases and economic growth.  The benefits of deregulation in the United States have mostly been realized, and future gains in productivity will rely on further improvements to facilities and operations.  In Europe, policies to separate infrastructure and traction are still in an experimental stage.  Both regions will find financing to be a difficult issue.  Overcoming these financial barriers will require more public/private partnerships.  Finding ways to provide, manage, and finance needed capacity will require active cooperation from a host of economic interests. 

 

Given these issues, topics that appear to warrant special attention at the next forum are:

< >Public/private financing options for intermodal improvementsTrends and key developments that will create major capacity concerns within the next five yearsCommon transport policiesRecent developments and issues raised by shared passenger/freight use of infrastructureIntermodal connectors – possibly focusing on air/rail intermodal in Europe and truck/rail or RoadRailer operations in the United StatesBest practices for obtaining operational efficiencies at hubs and transfer points, including intermodal information systems.Turning intermodality into a new job.  Intermodal transport will develop only if the policy framework accommodates its unique needs.Standardizing loading units will lead intermodality toward becoming a mature industry.  The 6th Framework program for RTD might help by preparing technical standards for containers and swap bodies.Launching a new, broader program to accelerate the development of intermodal services, expanding the Pilot Actions for Combined Transport program that began in 1992.  It will support the introduction of new services that are able to transfer significant volumes of road traffic to more sustainable modes.  It will support strategic initiatives, such as new operating processes or techniques, which can be introduced to the market and speed transfer of freight from road to other modes.  It will stimulate cooperation between different segments of the freight sector by supporting the broader application of successful models of cooperation.Creating a Trans European Network Policy to support intermodal infrastructure.  Of the 18 billion € devoted by the Commission to infrastructure projects between 2001 and 2006, nearly 4.2 billion € comes from the budget of Trans European Networks.  The Commission will target these funds to large projects that eliminate intermodal bottlenecks and to create intermodal centers.Developing short-sea shipping as a viable alternative to congested land corridors. As a first step in this direction, the Commission recently proposed a package to reduce monopolization of port services and to streamline customs and administrative procedures. 

 

These actions to boost intermodal transport arise in the context of wider framework which responds to the threat of global climate change.  Between 1990 and 2010, projections show that 90 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions in Europe come from the transport sector.  The European Commission is determined to meet the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors by eight percent between 1990 and 2010.  It wishes to sever the longstanding linkage between economic growth and the volume of goods transported.  Recent reductions in the energy-intensiveness of economic activity may be a hopeful sign that transport-intensiveness can be reduced as well.   Certainly these larger concerns add new urgency to the need to make innovative and efficient use of all the transport capacity now in place.

 

Vice President Loyola de Palacio concluded by saying, “It is of fundamental importance to take a common step into a practical application of our knowledge and the tools we use on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, if we are to obtain the highest level of performance of intermodal transportation we do need systems that are, if not identical, at least compatible....I am pleased that in the transport research field we have had positive co-operation with the United States over the past few years.... In the future we are hoping to extend the co-operation with further participation of US participants in the European research programs but we would also expect that European participation in US-based projects can grow as well. I value the invitation and outcome of this forum and also the intention to have a new one in 2002, in Florida. I am looking forward not only to the conclusions but also to the implementation, the practical implementation of all the conclusions and all the good work that you are doing.”

 

 

 

Fourth Forum on Intermodal Freight Transport Between Europe and the United States

 

Executive Summary

 

Efficient transport is indispensable for economic growth and prosperity, particularly as national and regional economies become globally interconnected.  Intermodal transport is a necessary component of an efficient transport network at both national and international levels.  Throughout the developed world, bottlenecks in the transport system are becoming worse, and environmental concerns are mounting, making it imperative to address the transport system in an holistic, multimodal manner.  In this regard, an efficient intermodal network can be particularly appealing given that intermodal transport is very environmentally-beneficent.  From April 4 to April 6, 2001, more than 50 top leaders in transport from Europe and the United States met in Genoa, Italy, to discuss steps to improve intermodal freight transport.  This meeting continued a dialogue between officials of the European Commission, the U.S. Department of Transportation and leaders in transport industries that began in October 1997.  Their goals are to improve intermodal transport by building better understanding of the complex set of issues that affect it, and to help independent organizations, both public and private, coordinate their activities into an integrated whole. 

 

Electronic commerce will profoundly change how intermodal transport is provided and how it is used, but not without further trial and error. The potential is large: rapid growth in business-to-business e-commerce will create new demand for intermodal transport services.  Advances in e-commerce will make transport faster as well as lower its administrative costs.  Nevertheless, many recent attempts to market transport-related innovations have suffered the same fate as e-commerce applications in other sectors, and have not been financial successes.  But it would be shortsighted to conclude that e-commerce has been oversold.  Rather, its impact on transport, which has the potential to be profound, is only dimly starting to emerge. More shake-out is expected.  Perhaps few if any of the today’s products and developers of new applications will be recognizable five years from now, but transport system operations then will certainly be markedly different due to shifts stemming from them.

 

Alleviation of system bottlenecks is essential.  This requires resolving complex issues and doing careful planning.  For example, Chicago is a key interface point between 12 individual railroads, but transfer of freight from one carrier to another often requires truck haulage to move it across the Chicago region.  This is costly and it adds to local highway congestion and environmental problems.  To improve this situation, a consortium of railroads called the Chicago Gateway Project is considering ways to connect the numerous rail hubs scattered across the region.  They have made a number of operational improvements and are developing proposals to avoid inefficient rail line crossings and urban truck connections.

 

Freight movements on European highways are becoming increasingly burdensome due to their congestion and environmental effects.  Greater use of non-highway modes can help ease these stresses.  An innovative Genoa-Barcelona short-sea-shipping operation illustrates the potential to use inexpensive, environmentally advantageous water transport as an alternative to rail, although this has yet to be a business success.  Major port investments to develop a hub-and-spoke ocean shipping system based around the Gioia Tauro port show that the dramatic potential of short sea shipping can be quickly realized.  In the United States, operational improvements in the San Pedro terminal increased its efficiency considerably, and further gains could be made if activity could be spread more evenly on a seven days a week, 24 hour a day basis.

 

Similar challenges are faced in integrating transport services on both sides of the Atlantic.  Solutions involve actions of three types:

  • Strategic development of plans to alleviate specific bottlenecks, including consideration of operational improvements;
  • Increased public/private cooperation to help all parties work in areas of mutual interest; and
  • Creation of competitive structures that more fully reflect social concerns and that encourage greater coordination of processes and procedures.

 

Two large public/private partnerships now in different stages of development – the Alameda Corridor in the United States and the Betuwe Line Project between the Netherlands and Germany – show that good planning and extensive cooperation can promote network improvements.  They also illustrate the political and financial complexities that must be overcome to realize this potential.  It takes decades to build the cooperation and to assemble the resources needed for success.  Each situation is unique and requires a carefully tailored solution.  Governments need a flexible array of models for forming partnerships with all interested parties.

 

Both European and U.S. participants believe that it would be valuable to participate in cooperative projects in which they work together to improve intermodal transport.  In this regard, they asked their respective governments to appoint a working group to review all opportunities for joint cooperation and to advance those that appear most promising.  This cooperation will help to improve operations and increase the economic and environmental benefits that come from an effective intermodal network.

 

The advantages of intermodal transport make this a priority for further EU-US cooperation.  Economic growth, demographics, and e-commerce are increasing freight traffic on a network in which many parts have already reached capacity.  New solutions are essential.  The benefits of deregulation have mostly been realized, and future gains in productivity will rely on further improvements to facilities and operations.  Further, all modes face looming capacity constraints and insufficient resources to alleviate them. Financing intermodal operational and infrastructure improvement will be difficult in an era of increasing demand and limited resources.  Industry and government are struggling to identify ways to meet significant future demand.  More public/private partnerships are needed, building upon approaches that have proven to be successful in the past.  The European Community and the United States can each make more progress by comparing experiences, best practices, and opportunities for improvement.

 

 

Background and Purpose

 

Traffic on congested European highways, particularly truck traffic, is becoming an ever-larger problem.  European GDP is forecast to grow by three percent per year for the next decade, reported Kerstin Sterner, and continuation of current freight trends appears unsustainable. The status quo will not meet the needs of industry nor provide the quality of life expected by citizens. It is vital that effective solutions be found, because inadequate transport threatens to impair international trade and hurt economic growth. Intermodal transport has the potential to accommodate economic growth without increasing the volume of road traffic.  European policy seeks to seize these advantages, and encourages intermodal transport through a variety of policies, including reform of infrastructure charges to reflect the full cost of services, including environmental costs.  Further, the pending inclusion of ports within the Trans European Network will bring new financial assistance to port development.  The future of the ports and the success of intermodalism are inextricably linked.

 

The United States faces severe congestion at a number of ports, rail lines, highway corridors, and interchange points.  Intermodal services are competitive in many markets.  The range of competitiveness of such services is a market equilibrium.  It is influenced by corporate investment, technological improvements, and infrastructure performance.  Public policy also influences this equilibrium.  In the United States, recent legislative provisions on financial support for highways have made it possible to use federal funds for “intermodal connectors” that link highways to other modes.  This makes it possible for the multimodal network to function more like an integrated system.

 

Market and technological changes are redefining how transport fits within the economy.  The new economy reshapes the flows of product, the positioning of inventory, and the return of finished goods.  It opens the doors to new participants: even small companies can now enter international trade.  The era when transport companies use technology is being replaced by one in which technology companies use transport.

 

This forum, like others before it, aims to increase understanding and cooperation.  The issues are complex, and will take years to resolve.  There are no quick fixes and little likelihood of success for actions taken in isolation. Rather, improvements in intermodal transport are the result of many separate actions – actions by governments, by industry, and by combinations of these. The business decisions of each participant in this forum influences the effectiveness of the intermodal network.  The aim of this forum is to create a fuller system-wide understanding so that individual steps will collectively result in a more efficient, more continuous, more effective intermodal network.

 

Such mutual understanding has an important payoff, but even more is possible and desirable.  In particular, joint projects that increase operational coordination between European and U.S. organizations can speed the development of better systems.  Another aim of this forum is to identify and begin active projects in which European and U.S. interests cooperate in putting good ideas into practice.

 

E-Commerce and Intermodal Transport

 

The emergence of e-commerce is one of the key changes affecting the prospects of intermodal transport.  E-commerce widens the range of competition and the resultant freight flows.  It allows transport and logistics firms to achieve new heights of operational efficiency.  It eliminates the need for physical transfer of documentation related to transport.  This potential, and the changes actually being experienced, were addressed by Carmine G. Biancardi.  In his view, efficiency and competitiveness depend upon network organization, specifically maintaining an open and sustainable transport market, and on making efficient use of the existing infrastructure.  This requires an intermodal approach to transport, in order to achieve a modal shift away from highways, to integrate short-sea shipping into the logistics chain, and to improve the safety and efficiency of intermodal transport.

 

Intermodal transport enjoys new opportunities with the emergence of e-business, which encourages carriers to integrate services based on a larger electronic network. As part of their own business processes, carriers are establishing new electronic interfaces with their partners.  All parties engaged in intermodal transport are modernizing their interoperability and interconnectivity, and improving the flow of information between systems.  They are making increased use of computerized re-routing and scheduling, and standardized tracking and tracing.

 

Business-to-business e-commerce is growing rapidly and this will continue.  In the nine months between October 1999 and June 2000, the number of business-to-business e-commerce marketplaces worldwide has more than doubled.  The largest increases have been in the building industry; agriculture, fish, and flowers; health; finance and insurance; and logistics. In North America the number of markets nearly tripled:  from 248 to 726, while in Europe it increased fourfold, from 56 to 224.  As this growth continues, it will either require retailers increasingly to act as distribution agents or producers to consolidate the orders of individual customers.

 

Such market changes pose new transport challenges by increasing the number of consignments and imposing larger transport distances.  They require that the quality and efficiency of logistics services be increased so that shipments are punctual, safe, and traceable.  Global networking is essential to do this.  It poses new opportunities for logistics firms.  They may be able to outsource their logistics capabilities to their customers; they may be able to integrate the systems vertically and offer e-supply-chain management; they may be able to provide additional assembly or financial services; and they may be able to capture more of the reverse-logistics market.

 

The development of the internet has forced companies to extend their business models to embrace the entire supply chain, observed David Simchi-Levi.  There has been a rapid and costly learning curve here.  When the capabilities of the Internet first appeared, many expected that supply chain problems would be finally resolved.  E-business strategies were supposed to reduce costs, improve service, allow more flexibility, and boost profits.  Realizing these benefits has been a difficult struggle, and some firms have met their downfall trying to grasp them.  Many early investors in e-commerce – like those who invested in Living.com, Furniture.com, or Peapod – have experienced disappointing to disastrous results. 

 

The initial forays into supply-chain management applied a “push” perspective, in which production and distribution decisions were based on long-term forecasts.  Forecasts of retail sales would drive retailer orders up, would get wholesalers and distributors to plan high inventory to be able to meet orders, and would encourage factory managers to seek the economies of large production runs.  The effect of the “push” model is that each link in the supply chain would experience increases in variability directly related to its lead time.  The short ups and downs experienced by retailers would get progressively magnified into larger cycles by wholesalers and distributors, and would be magnified further into huge, long-term cycles by producers.  This “bullwhip effect” is characteristic of “push” supply chains, and firms that have used them have experienced excessive inventory, large and variable production batches, unacceptable service levels, and ineffective resource management. 

 

In concept, a purely demand-driven “pull” supply-chain management strategy could avoid all these problems.  It would respond to real customer demand, not forecasts.  Firms would hold no inventory, and produce all goods to order.  Unfortunately, Simchi-Levi finds that such a strategy is not operational due to lead-time constraints and the diseconomies of small-scale production that would be entailed.

 

In parallel with the emergence of the Internet, a number of industries have moved from push strategies to pull strategies and then to hybrids.  Today, firms exploiting supply-chain management capabilities are finding that a hybrid “push-pull” strategy allows them to apply a push-based approach to the production stages and a pull-based one to the market stages.  Dell Computers is a good example, using a strategy of delayed differentiation.  At Dell, the generic product is built and transported based on long-term forecasts, thereby achieving production and transport scale economies.  Product differentiation occurs only after a customer order is placed, via assembly from generic components.  This strategy minimizes the inventory of fully finished product, but it recognizes inventory of generic components as a necessary compromise.

 

Transport is being fundamentally reshaped by these recent hybrid push-pull strategies in the grocery, book, and general retail industries.  The appropriate strategy depends on industry and company specifics, but when customer demand is highly uncertain, it is advantageous to manage more of the supply chain in a pull-based fashion.  This has several important implications for transport.  It implies a shift in fulfillment strategies from cases and bulk shipments to single items and smaller size shipments.  It entails a shift away from shipping to a small number of stores to serving highly dispersed customers.  It places new importance on reverse logistics, and complicates the process of reverse logistics.

 

Dynamic and flexible pricing are increasingly being used to cope with variability in demand.  They can reduce the bullwhip effect and balance sales variability with production efficiencies. Supply-chain collaboration, in which separate business partners at different points along the supply chain share information, coordinate plans, or create supply-chain communities, are another promising way to balance the opposing concerns at opposite ends of the supply chain. 

 

Supply-chain visibility is one of the key tools for combating the bullwhip effect.  By sharing actual demand information at each point along the chain, partners can coordinate production and distribution more efficiently, as well as reduce lead times.  This creates a new opportunity for logistics firms, which have information that they could use to boost supply-chain visibility.  They will face increased opportunities to work with retailers, manufacturers, distributors, carriers, freight forwarders, and other trading partners to apply this information in ways that improve customer service and profitability.

 

E-commerce is still very small – only about 0.6 percent of the market in the United States.  We are in the very early stages of a new technology.  The outcomes are difficult to predict.  There may be very few winners in the first round.  Even in the area of logistics, the 200 firms engaged in e-commerce represent only 3 percent of the market.  It is possible that many, maybe even all, could fail. 

 

The collapse of many dot.coms shows that new technology brings not only great opportunities but also great risks.  The presumption of many of the failed companies was that there was no need for physical infrastructure or inventory.  Today there is a renewed recognition of the need to hold inventory and acceptance of strategies that push this need up the supply chain.

 

Many of the early transport applications of e-commerce were based on auctioning of capacity, and some of these exchanges will survive and grow.  Another challenging transport market involving the Internet is learning how to move information better. All in all, however, changes appear to be more evolutionary than revolutionary.

 

Transport expectations will grow tougher as a result of e-commerce, which is training customers to order at the last minute.  Businesses have done the easy part, namely managing the demand side to avoid inventory.  But on the supply side, they may not be building the rapport that is essential in relationship-driven business situations.  The strains created by last-minute fulfillment need to be matched by strengthened supply-side partnerships if e-commerce is to continue to grow in transport.  The real gains in e-commerce may come with increased sharing in the supply chain in the vertical direction.  An example of this can be found in Holland, where a few manufacturers and two retailers formed new vertical partnerships.  E-commerce will lead to unfamiliar working relationships, and with trial and error we will gain a clearer understanding of the limits of those relationships.

 

Carriers can use this new era to separate the movement of goods and the movement of information about goods.  Carriers clearly control the first part, but they are also in a good position to capture the second part.  Valuable information is created each time a bill of lading is written. One can imagine a situation in which carriers create a collective portal where, for example, carriers as a group could depict current flows to Asia.  There could be great value to such information, and markets could develop around it, but carriers will miss this potential if independent third parties come to dominate the production of bills of lading.

 

E-commerce can also contribute to better asset management.  New systems allow owners to know where their assets are, and may open the door to asset sharing.  Company-specific containers and chassis contribute to a system where there is an inefficient excess of such assets.  “Gray” containers furnished by some third party might offer an efficient solution as well as a profit-making opportunity.  After all, most shippers probably do not care whose name is on the container.  In Europe, where the distribution network is very fragmented, separate firms are sharing warehouses and creating distribution portals.

 

Transport applications of e-commerce have produced their share of disappointments, just as in other areas of application.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad is now writing off a $25 million investment in a web-based system to facilitate barter exchange of truckload traffic, aiming to begin with truck shipments and then move into rail.  There proved to be too little trucker demand to make the system viable.  Logistics firms also report disappointing results, but are seeking to boost their capacity to serve as advisors to their customers, even to the point of placing their own personnel in their customers’ offices.

 

The cost of transport is going up in many instances, and shifts toward more small packages and more instantaneous services will not only drive costs further up, but will contribute to social costs which will be increasingly unbearable.  Railroads, in particular, face a challenging situation as asset-laden companies in an ever more virtual world.  The foundation of the rail industry – bulk movements – will still be there, but e-business adds a new multi-faceted layer to all production processes.  Progress in supply-chain management will add to this new layer, which creates transport problems.  It is not possible to ensure reliability on some rail routes.  Curing bottlenecks requires massive investment.  Having traffic with different priority on the same network is operationally difficult.

 

With more customers, and more small shipments, it will be increasingly difficult for railroads to provide the reliability that customers want.  Recent capital investments that railroads have made have been disappointing.  The net return on investment in U.S. railroads has been only 9.5 percent in the best of recent years.  Rail industry executives anticipate that the United States needs to reconsider how rail is supplied.   “Who will make the investment?” appears to be an open question in the United States as well as in Europe.

 

E-commerce has been highlighted as a key driver of new transport paradigms for a number of years now.  Most still believe that it has the potential to lead to profound changes in logistics management.  But unlike several years ago, today most carriers and logistics companies have a somewhat more tentative, cautious view of when and how this potential will be realized. Different parties have varied visions of where it will lead – whether gray boxes, vertical supply-chain integration, or other innovations.  Many of the earliest new forays here have been disappointing or worse and many more false-steps and failures appear likely.  This may encourage a somewhat more cautious “one step at a time” approach, but it does not diminish the sense that there are sizable benefits to be gained through ways that e-commerce and transport may come together. 

 

New intermodal service features may also enhance the potential for developmental and environmental benefits.  As private concerns continue to seek ways to optimize their use of resources, it is important that the associated benefits to society be kept in the picture as well. 

 

Best Practices in Intermodal Transport

 

Intermodal traffic has been increasing. There are now 9.2 million intermodal shipments per year in the United States, up threefold from 20 years ago.  In spite of the long reach of each railroad’s routes, the United States rail system nevertheless has inefficient bottlenecks, one of which is Chicago.  Paul Nowicke from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe reported that the Chicago is the World’s third largest interchanger of intermodal traffic – second only to the ports of Hong Kong and Singapore. As is apparent from Figure 1, Chicago is a key hub in the U.S. rail network.   (The widths of the lines in Figure 1 are proportional to volume of intermodal freight traffic.)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1.  Intermodal Freight Volumes in the United States

 

 

Separate intermodal hubs – 17 in all – compete for this traffic. Intermodal shipments are often carried by truck from one railroad to another on the other side of Chicago.  These cross-town services operate on local streets and generally do not share information.   The result is that one third of all interchange miles are empty, a system that is very inefficient and damaging to the local environment.  Starting eight years ago, railroads joined together to form the Chicago Gateway Project to develop solutions to this bottleneck.  To date, this has resulted in the investment of some $420 million in infrastructure improvement.  It has also resulted in the creation in 1999 of an operations coordination office to bring more efficiency to the complex system, which includes 137 rail interlockings between 12 companies, controlled by 13 separate dispatch centers.  The initial results are very encouraging.  Transit times averaged about 5 hours in 1999 when the operations coordination began.  This fell to about 3 hours in 2000, and under 3 hours for the first part of this year.  This is good, but it does not get at the root problems, according to Nowi />

 

 

 

 

 

Exports

Imports

Figure 2a.  Exports and Imports Projected for U.S. Gateways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2b.  Traffic distribution for Freight Moving in or out of Charleston SC

 

 

 

 

 

 

This level of geographic and graphic detail is a powerful tool for visualizing bottlenecks that may come with future growth in trade.  Maring projected that from 1998 to 2020, freight tonnage will increase at about three percent per year or nearly double over that time period. To examine the implications of this growth, Maring plans to translate these forecasts into traffic assignments along specific parts of the network.  This will allow policy makers to gain a better understanding of emerging constraints and to develop illustrative multi-modal case studies.  It will provide a framework for “what-if” studies of alternative policies relative to each transport mode.

 

Policy makers will face difficult choices.  Both passenger and freight traffic will increase significantly.  Freight, for example, will nearly double by 2020.  Current facilities are not adequate to handle such volumes, but plans and financing are not in place to upgrade them.  Neither can current operational practices sustain this magnitude of growth.  The Federal Highway Administration plans to conduct a national freight summit in December 2001 to review future policy options. This will help all parties gain a better grasp of emerging constraints and ways to address them, including possible federal legislative changes as part of the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization.

 

Deregulation of U.S. railroads through the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 and the Staggers Act of 1980 has improved efficiency dramatically.  Robert Martinez reported that in the period from 1980 to 1996, railroads carried more than 50 percent more freight, even as they reduced their track by 35 percent, cut their stock of locomotives by 32 percent, decreased the number of wagons by 27 percent, and eliminated 60 percent of their employees.  These efficiencies have been passed on to shippers through rate reductions.  The rail revenue per ton-mile (adjusted for inflation) fell 57 percent during this period.  Most rail freight (70 percent) moves under special confidential contracts; 18 percent is potentially subject to regulation because of a cost-related threshold in the law, and 12 percent is exempt by definition.  As a generalization, Martinez observed that U.S. railroads had responded to deregulation with a cost-reducing strategy rather than a service-increasing one.

 

Looking ahead, Martinez sees a new era for both railroads and trucks.  While deregulation has been strongly positive for both trucks and rail, many of the easier benefits from deregulation have played themselves out.  The “highway model” provided by the Eisenhower-era interstate legislation is also approaching the end of easy additional capacity.  Both truck and rail modes are destined to face increasing congestion.  Patchwork fixes will not solve the problem.  Martinez argues that the United States is at the point where highway financing practices should reflect the ability of non-highway modes to alleviate congestion.  This consideration could be helped by collection of more complete and reliable truck origin-destination data as they would yield insights into where investments in additional capacity (both public and private) would yield the greatest returns.  Rail freight data are already extensive and fairly robust.   Further, future legislation should broaden the flexibility granted to regions to undertake multimodal projects that yield highway benefits, even if they are not themselves focused directly on highway improvements.  Also, Martinez would like to see a connectors and terminals program similar to the borders and corridors program now in place.

 

Within the industry, Jeffrey Crowe predicts a massive consolidation down to a few “best of class” companies in the trucking industry.  They will be the ones who recognize that they are in the information business.  He warned against interpreting the failure of dot.coms as a sign that the Internet is not important.  Technology will continue to differentiate companies, and it is vital to exploit its business potential.  Safety will likewise remain critical to success.  The coming competition will be intensified by a slowing economy, high fuel and energy costs, a hardening insurance market, and lack of market liquidity.  There will be winners and losers, and this is all part of a healthy market response.  Crowe argues that less economic regulation is always better than more regulation, and that policy makers should remain dispassionate and let the market decide the outcome during the turbulent years ahead.

 

Railroad executives responded that in a fair situation, the best-in-class should win, but in actuality there is not always a level playing field.  Government rules can tilt the outcomes.  Industry may face harsh financial outcomes, whether the Government set the right rules or not.

 

The growth in U.S. intermodal operations has been hampered by increases in drayage costs, stemming from drayage operations running 50 percent empty.  These have more than offset reductions in terminal costs. The result is that the line where rail intermodal service becomes competitive with truck has gone up, and is now typically around 850 miles.

 

Railroad interests agreed that the gains of U.S. deregulation have already been captured, and further productivity gains in the future will require changing other time-honored traditions.  Two of these were highlighted in the discussion.  One is moving toward transcontinental rail networks.  Rail executives see the response to recent rail mergers as an over-reaction, and argue that U.S. railroads are too small for the territory.  The other is rethinking the traditional ways in which governments distribute resources.  The key is finding the resources, somehow, to make rail services more reliable.  The lackluster profits history of U.S. railroads makes it unlikely that private financing will be available to accomplish this. Nor do private financiers recognize the public benefits in highway operations that would result.  Short-haul rail services will not significantly change the overall picture. 

 

Future rail productivity gains hinge chiefly on further consolidation, which is not politically acceptable now, in the United States or in Europe.  Indeed, the challenge in Europe may be greater, where it is necessary not only to merge companies, but in effect to merge countries as well.

 

Deregulation is not a clear action that automatically yields a market optimum, but is typically a reaction to a situation where the rules have become counterproductive.  Fixing those rules through deregulation is a tricky business, as the recent energy experience in California illustrates.  U. S. rail executives were leery of deregulation that separated infrastructure and traction. Governments are political bodies, and when political bodies set prices, they are apt to disrupt the market.  U.S. executives do not believe that it is possible to separate infrastructure and traction effectively. European leaders do not believe that Europe could return to privatized rail infrastructure.  Unlike in the United States, where it is possible to go from almost any one point to another with a few railroads, in Europe a large number of railroads may be required.  European leaders argue that there is not just one way to deregulate, and that the European model must reflect the unique circumstances there.

 

 

Further European/U.S. Cooperation in Intermodal Freight Transport

 

The discussions at the Genoa forum were useful in suggesting better ways of working together.  Participants suggested continuing the dialogue at a similar meeting in the spring of 2002.  In addition, they believe that there it would be valuable to participate in cooperative projects in which they work together to improve intermodal transport between the two regions, and explored a number of possible alternatives including extending tracking and tracing systems to cover international, intermodal movements; use of process mapping as a guide to improving the intermodal system, application of performance measures to intermodal service, and research on batteries suitable for inside-container applications.  The next set of tenders in the EC Fifth Framework program includes a focus on the security and safety of intermodal transport units, and this could provide a working arrangement for increased European/U.S. cooperation. Participants decided that it would be helpful to form a European/U.S. working group to review all of the other opportunities for joint cooperation that were discussed and to seek ways to advance those that appear mutually promising.

 

Better intermodal freight transport is a top priority, and policy should continue to support it.  Transport systems are at capacity in both Europe and the United States due to population increases and economic growth.  The benefits of deregulation in the United States have mostly been realized, and future gains in productivity will rely on further improvements to facilities and operations.  In Europe, policies to separate infrastructure and traction are still in an experimental stage.  Both regions will find financing to be a difficult issue.  Overcoming these financial barriers will require more public/private partnerships.  Finding ways to provide, manage, and finance needed capacity will require active cooperation from a host of economic interests. 

 

Given these issues, topics that appear to warrant special attention at the next forum are:

< >Public/private financing options for intermodal improvementsTrends and key developments that will create major capacity concerns within the next five yearsCommon transport policiesRecent developments and issues raised by shared passenger/freight use of infrastructureIntermodal connectors – possibly focusing on air/rail intermodal in Europe and truck/rail or RoadRailer operations in the United StatesBest practices for obtaining operational efficiencies at hubs and transfer points, including intermodal information systems.Turning intermodality into a new job.  Intermodal transport will develop only if the policy framework accommodates its unique needs.Standardizing loading units will lead intermodality toward becoming a mature industry.  The 6th Framework program for RTD might help by preparing technical standards for containers and swap bodies.Launching a new, broader program to accelerate the development of intermodal services, expanding the Pilot Actions for Combined Transport program that began in 1992.  It will support the introduction of new services that are able to transfer significant volumes of road traffic to more sustainable modes.  It will support strategic initiatives, such as new operating processes or techniques, which can be introduced to the market and speed transfer of freight from road to other modes.  It will stimulate cooperation between different segments of the freight sector by supporting the broader application of successful models of cooperation.Creating a Trans European Network Policy to support intermodal infrastructure.  Of the 18 billion € devoted by the Commission to infrastructure projects between 2001 and 2006, nearly 4.2 billion € comes from the budget of Trans European Networks.  The Commission will target these funds to large projects that eliminate intermodal bottlenecks and to create intermodal centers.Developing short-sea shipping as a viable alternative to congested land corridors. As a first step in this direction, the Commission recently proposed a package to reduce monopolization of port services and to streamline customs and administrative procedures. 

 

These actions to boost intermodal transport arise in the context of wider framework which responds to the threat of global climate change.  Between 1990 and 2010, projections show that 90 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions in Europe come from the transport sector.  The European Commission is determined to meet the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors by eight percent between 1990 and 2010.  It wishes to sever the longstanding linkage between economic growth and the volume of goods transported.  Recent reductions in the energy-intensiveness of economic activity may be a hopeful sign that transport-intensiveness can be reduced as well.   Certainly these larger concerns add new urgency to the need to make innovative and efficient use of all the transport capacity now in place.

 

Vice President Loyola de Palacio concluded by saying, “It is of fundamental importance to take a common step into a practical application of our knowledge and the tools we use on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, if we are to obtain the highest level of performance of intermodal transportation we do need systems that are, if not identical, at least compatible....I am pleased that in the transport research field we have had positive co-operation with the United States over the past few years.... In the future we are hoping to extend the co-operation with further participation of US participants in the European research programs but we would also expect that European participation in US-based projects can grow as well. I value the invitation and outcome of this forum and also the intention to have a new one in 2002, in Florida. I am looking forward not only to the conclusions but also to the implementation, the practical implementation of all the conclusions and all the good work that you are doing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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