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Despite recession fallout, transportation industry thriving

Keywords: Tags  freight transportation, Union Pacific, Alabama State Port Authority, CSX,

Although the freight transportation industry took a hit during the recession, many operations have remained sustainable and profitable—and are reinvesting their earnings in infrastructure and expansion projects, as three recent examples show.

Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Corp. has sought to make doing business by rail easier for metal customers by introducing several new services, including Pipeline Express, Seamless Steel and Copper Connection. Its energy site tracker for pipeline shippers is a Web application that has streamlined the process for pipeline projects, with a database that allows users to select distribution locations best suited for new pipeline projects, allowing quicker responses to inquiries about site viability, site requirements and rail rates, among other information. Union Pacific’s Transverse Trough greatly improves the ease of loading while eliminating the need for blocking and bracing, and the cars’ design has eliminated damage associated with coil telescoping. The new equipment also is outfitted with gaskets to keep out water and debris.

Like Union Pacific, Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Corp. has developed multiple service solutions to satisfy customers, particularly those seeking flexibility in a global business environment. Major investments over the past several years have focused on increasing capacity, developing new corridors and adding new, more-efficient rail cars. CSX services 70 ocean, gulf, lake and river ports throughout North America, providing scrap operations and steel producers valuable access to the export market. CSX’s MetalNet network of warehouses offers an array of distribution options, including forward positioning and just-in-time truck delivery.

The Alabama State Port Authority’s Pinto Terminal in Mobile was specifically designed to reduce the cost of transferring steel slab from ocean-going vessels to barges serving ThyssenKrupp Steel USA LLC’s mill some 43 miles away in Calvert, Ala. The proposed site wasn’t large enough to accommodate a typical bulk handling operation and required several facility layout and design innovations to make the slab-handling operation feasible. The resulting terminal consists of a 45-foot-draft, 1,050-foot-long ship berth, a slab storage yard and a barge handling slip positioned between the ship’s berth and shoreside storage yard. The terminal’s gantry cranes straddle the barge slip, facilitating efficient vessel-to-barge or vessel-to-storage steel slab handling. The placement of the barge-handling slip between the rails of the gantry cranes supported the operational efficiencies required to satisfy the slab-handling performance rates specified for the Pinto Terminal site to support the steel mill. The $100-million terminal, which was awarded the American Association of Port Authorities’ top engineering honor as well as the Logistics/Transportation Provider of the Year title in last year’s AMM Awards for Steel Excellence, has a throughput capacity of about 5 million tons with a slab storage capacity of 150,000 tons.

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