Time to rebuild and nationalize Canada's railways, and whatever else it takes, to get these killer monster trucks off our roads

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Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

It kind of sounds like rail vs. truck is a bit like TTC subway vs. taxi.

If you have no special time to be somewhere, and if you're going to a subway station anyway, the TTC is only $3.25 and it's environmentally and safety friendly.

If you need to be somewhere at a specific time, or your destination isn't right by a TTC station, a taxi might be reasonable.

And if you need to get to somewhere that's not right by a station, and you have a bit of wiggle room on time of arrival, you might consider taking the subway for the bulk of the journey, then grabbing a cab the rest of the way.  Which is pretty much analogous to how lots of goods are shipped.

I would agree that sending a shipment of lettuce from Vancouver to St. John by truck probably isn't the more economic choice, nor the faster choice, but letting that produce sit in a container for a week, or fail to make it all the way to the buyer doesn't make much sense either.

But let's not forget that we're only debating this because NR doesn't want any trucks on the roads at all, because they hurt his hockey friends.  I'm not really aware of any good evidence that the truck that collided with the Humboldt bus could have been a train if not for those screaming right-wingers, nor that trains don't ever hit vehicles, nor that there was even an especially good reason for this collision (e.g. "because with SO MANY trucks on that lonely stretch of highway, it was inevitable" or "Who's supposed to notice both a stop sign AND a flashing light?").

Another option, if it comes to it, would be to require the sports team to take the train.  If it's more expensive, doesn't get them there in time for the game, or doesn't go door-to-door, they can figure that out just like the lettuce.  Safety first!

Pogo Pogo's picture

CBC Vancouver does an annual test of the different methods to get to work.  As public transit systems have expanded over the years the relationship between different systems has changed. The option of transit or cycling has increasingly become a close match for the car. Likewise investing in rail will reduce/eliminate the justifications for using other systems.

Yes there are a bunch of soft (non-price) issues that make rail traffic problematic.  Some are inherent to the mode of transit (rough ride, limited service points), but most are fixable:

Lead times issues are directly connected to infrastructure.  More rail lines and more trains will provide easier movement.  Spur lines can expand the number of service points. The growing intermodal industry will continue to expand delivery options for LTL service.

A change of culture is needed at rail operations. I can go on a website and pinpoint where the ship with my container is at any point of time. Railways meanwhile provide such minimal information that asking the question is a waste of time. This culture has to change.

The important thing is that not that we should improve rail transit so we can get goods faster and cheaper.  Rather it is because the carbon footprint shrinks profoundly. This will do far more towards saving the planet than preventing one pipeline from coming into existence. Reducing the footprint of the goods we consume is the second best thing we can do to reduce global warming.

Rev Pesky

From Pogo:

Lead times issues are directly connected to infrastructure.  More rail lines and more trains will provide easier movement.  Spur lines can expand the number of service points. The growing intermodal industry will continue to expand delivery options for LTL service.

A change of culture is needed at rail operations. I can go on a website and pinpoint where the ship with my container is at any point of time. Railways meanwhile provide such minimal information that asking the question is a waste of time. This culture has to change.

To adress that last first, it's pretty easy to track a ship on the ocean. tracking a rail car is a different thing. Trains are routinely broken up and re-sorted, but yes you could put a transmitter on each car.

As to the earlier point, the efficiency of rail has to do with the amount of goods that can be transported by a locomotive. The longer the train, the more efficient the transportation. That is, of course, to the limit of the locomotive to actually move the train.

If you start putting together trains of one or two cars, the efficiency will go down drastically.  So it's not just a matter of more tracks. Just think for a moment if you attached a locomotive to a single railcar. How would the efficiency of that conpare to the efficiency of a tractor trailer? I suspect the tractor trailer would be a lot more efficient.

Another problem is that the train 'resource' is stuck to the tracks. If for some reason the cars are needed somewhere other than where they are, they can only be taken where there are other tracks. The road system, now, and forever, will be a lot more flexible in that respect.

In any case, as Mr. Magoo says, if you can't get drivers to pay attention to flashing red lights and stop signs, it doesn't really matter is the flashing red light is at a rail crossing, or a asphalt intersection. For a good look at such, just go to youtube and search 'train crashes'.

I also remember the Lac-Megantic disaster. There was a also an outcry, but that time about trains.

progressive17 progressive17's picture

Pogo wrote:

Rev Pesky wrote:
I'd just like to address the 'truck versus train' discussion.

Trains are very good at transporting large amounts of single items from major centre to major centre. I you have less than a car load (train car, that is), rail becomes very expensive. Back when I worked in  building supply, and we often compared pricing between CL (car load), and LCL (less than car load). Delivering mixed loads of goods is much cheaper by truck than rail, and more convenient as well.

It's not really 'trucks versus trains', they work in a complementary relationship with each other. This is especially true of containers. Rail cars carry containers from the port to whatever city they're destined for, where they are moved to trucks which take them to warehouses for unloading, or directly to the end user.

Rail transports carload quantities very efficiently and cheaply. Less than carload by rail is very expensive and inefficient

That is just wrong.  I currently am moving goods to points across Canada from parcel delivery to ocean containers.  LTL (less than truck load) rates are 25% better using an intermodal service - as long as you are travelling a distance of over 1000 miles.  There are a number of companies that specialize in single skid shipments (Western Canada Express).  Many truck companies such as Vitran will provide rail service as an alternative, again at a better rate.  

The problem is not dollars to dollars, rail wins, it is the soft issues.  It is a bit rougher ride so you have to ensure your goods can handle it. I have shipped quartz countertops which are quite brittle, but had no issues as long as the goods were loaded on frames properly. The big issues are timing and service. Rail lines are structured around commodities and customer service and deadlines are secondary. I have had a container from Ontario coming to BC seperated and left on a siding in Alberta for 2 weeks, with no communication and little response.

Skid? were you born in a barn? Pallet!

NorthReport

Obviously the trucking industry is useless when it comes to monitoring drivers Time for the government to step in and take over and get these killer trucks off our roads

Pogo Pogo's picture

Rev Pesky wrote:

 The road system, now, and forever, will be a lot more flexible in that respect.

I noticed that you did not respond to my claim (backed up with hands on knowledge) that LTL is in fact cheaper contrary to your early post.  But lets start with the most critical point: rail transit reduces the carbon footprint. Acknowledge that rail is a far less flexible system. It will not take every truck off the road, but it can take plenty.  And we can take meaningful steps to make the system more user friendly. Not to replace road traffic but to take a bigger share.

Rev Pesky

From Pogo:

I noticed that you did not respond to my claim (backed up with hands on knowledge) that LTL is in fact cheaper contrary to your early post.  But lets start with the most critical point: rail transit reduces the carbon footprint.

To the first point: If less than carload is so much cheaper than trucking why don't shippers use it? Okay, it may be cheaper under certain terms, but even the article you posted acknowledged that rail was not cheaper except in certain circumstance.

​As to the carbon footprint, I suggest this thought experiment. Which is less carbon intensive, a tractor-trailer rig, or a locomotive with a single rail car?

The carbon footprint of rail depends entirely upon how many rail cars are in the train. And as far as the rest of the argument, let's put truck and rail on equal footing. Let's build a set of roads that will only allow truck traffic, that will require all other traffic to stop while trucks go through intersections, and give huge tracts of land to the owners of these roads. 

There are some goods for which rail is an obvious choice: coal, oil, wheat. lumber, etc. According to the USA Federal Rail Administration:

Rail is efficient at moving heavy freight over long distances, as are water and pipeline freight services. Trucks excel in providing time-sensitive delivery services for high-value goods being transported over medium- and short-haul distances.

Pogo Pogo's picture

I am going by my experience. In my last two positions when I started rail transit was used only by accident - people took the freight quote from a trucking company and were not aware that the goods were actually going intermodal. Each time I introduced a rail service option and we dropped the FDB considerably. So I would say the first problem preventing increased rail usage is preconceived notions.

JKR

Doesn't it say a lot that companies are choosing the current mix of train to truck services? What is stopping companies from using more train services other than economic considerations? If it is simply out of ignorance that companies are using too much train services than why haven't their competitors taken advantage of the situation? It seems to me that the free market with its very many competing producers is efficient at determining the allocaton of resources economically.

Pogo Pogo's picture

I think you give the free market too much credit.

Pogo Pogo's picture

dbl post

6079_Smith_W

On the question of the trucking industry's responsibility, part of the problem is that only Ontario requires driver training. The Canadian Trucking Association has come out saying that needs to change. There has been a huge increase in trucking here in the prairies, and the end result has been a lot of cut corners.

I could post some excerpts, but it is worth reading the whole article. In addition the driver in this case had never driven that route before.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/humboldt-broncos-crash-mandatory...

Pogo Pogo's picture

https://www.todaystrucking.com/intermodal-volumes-rise/

Intermodal volumes and related rates are on the rise this year, buoyed by a strong U.S. economy, but a shortage of rail capacity is also pushing more of the freight onto trucks, FTR Transportation Intelligence reports.

Just to show that the market is actual shifting to rail.  Slowly because rail has issues that need to be addressed (capacity, service, customer perception, etc...).

 

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