Thursday, January 31, 2013

Intermodal Freight Gets an Update with Rail Cargo Carriage of Road Trucks by Pallet

Modernisation of Piggyback System Can Reduce Haulage Costs and Pollution
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – The idea of shipping road trucks or trailers via rail freight is hardly a new one, by 1970 France alone had around 2,500 Kangorou trailers registered and the dome shaped profiles, angled to fit through the numerous rail tunnels when loaded aboard a flat car were soon to be seen throughout Italy, the Benelux and beyond. Over a million tonnes of freight moved by the method in 1972 but the ‘piggybacking’ of trailers on rail cars has not seen much in the way of refinement since those early days but now, with the rapid rise in multimodal business, new techniques and technologies are emerging.

CargoBeamer AG has been testing its system for shipping any type of trailer, from semi-trailer and Mega trailer to tank or silo trailer, in which the truck simply loads the trailer onto a waiting wagon base, almost a mobile, recessed pallet before collecting any suitable arriving trailer at the intermodal facility. The elimination of the need for craning the waiting trailers when the train arrives thus reduces the time taken loading and unloading. When a train up to 700 metres long arrives its 35 wagons can be completely loaded with up to 72 trailers within 15 minutes. 90% of normal road trailers are unsuitable for craning anyway and the system eliminates this problem, along with normal road wear and tear as the trailer simply sits secure in its pallet whilst reducing pollution in line with EU objectives.

In November the system received the nod from Lithuanian authorities following European Commission acceptance last May, a full year before such approval become mandatory. CargoBeamer has now completed an initial test run transporting wagons from Leipzig to Calais to demonstrate that it fulfils all technical and operational requirements to run on the European rail network and now intends to expand services in the busiest rail cargo markets.

CargoBeamer will target the traditional piggyback routes throughout Switzerland, Italy Germany and France with an initial connection from the Benelux eastwards through Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The company started life in 1998 as an idea from two engineers based in Bautzen, Saxony, an area blessed with an intense rail network with roots 150 years old. In 2010 CargoBeamer AG opened the plant terminal in Leipzig-Engelsdorf and now has plans for a €25 million intermodal cargo hub in Calais which will bring the UK into the system as a potential destination.

Photo: A Schenker trailer being lifted via its pallet. Courtesy of CargoBeamer.