By Graham Sweeney
With the long-haul trucking industry reeling, officials with Norfolk Southern say their new intermodal terminal in nearby Rossville is ahead of the curve regarding the shifting landscape of transportation.
According to Grant Cothran, national accounts manager for Norfolk Southern, the long-haul trucking business has been “hit from all sides” in recent years, making intermodal rail and truck terminals a cheaper and more efficient means of moving freight.
Cothran said increasing government regulations, coupled with the recession and the growing desire of young workers to spend more time at home, have signaled the “end” of long-haul trucking.
“The romantic notion of long-haul trucking just isn’t that romantic any more for a lot of young people,” he said. “What works better is to let a truck driver deliver freight locally within a 100-mile radius to and from an intermodal terminal and go home for the night. We’ll then take all of those containers and shoot them where they need to go (via train).”
On July 1, months ahead of schedule, Norfolk Southern opened a $105 million intermodal rail and truck terminal in southern Fayette County.
The terminal is viewed as the crown jewel of the $2.5 billion Crescent Corridor project and is the single largest project in the 180-year-old company’s history.
Cothran said the Crescent Corridor, the largest beneficiary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will connect the Southeast and Northeast “mega regions” in a more efficient way.
“You usually see a train and think ‘slow,’” he said. “The reality is that we can be very fast.”
Emphasizing the intermodal system’s speediness, Cothran said one of Norfolk’s largest customers is now UPS, with FedEx “quickly catching up.”
Another aspect of the Crescent Corridor involves an international freight terminal in downtown Memphis. However, the Rossville terminal will strictly handle domestic freight traveling north to New York, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa. and eventually south to ports along the Gulf Coast.
With so much hyper-local trucking activity on area highways, Cothran said it is important for Mid-South residents to “embrace change.”
“There will be an uptake in local traffic,” he said. “Sometimes it’s an inconvenience. But you can view it as a badge of honor because you know every container you see is going toward a local job or investment.”
Look for another story on the Norfolk Southern intermodal terminal in next week’s edition.
By Graham Sweeney