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Channel 19

Todd Dills

‘Our trucks can move a ton of freight…’

| June 10, 2009

You’ve heard the ads, running typically something like this: “our trains can move a ton of freight 436 miles on just a single gallon of fuel,” as goes a frequent one aired on National Public Radio by CSX.

I’ve tried to reverse-engineer what I’ve guessed to be the logic in the underlying calculation here and came up with one for trucking companies: if a typical sleeper truck at around 26,000 lbs. can move 27 tons of freight 6 miles on a single gallon of fuel, then couldn’t it move just one of those tons 27 times that length, or 162 miles, on a single gallon? Not hardly, but you get the point.

Industry analyst John Schultz brought the ads up in a commentary on a story from Progressive Railroading, a trade mag that claims to be the “rail professionals’ information source,” as Schultz notes, then going on: “That’s kind of funny. The trucking industry execs that I talk with always got a kick out of the name ‘Progressive Railroading.’ More than one trucker has privately quipped to me: ‘Progressive Railroading, eh? That’s kind of like tallest midget news or military intelligence. What an oxymoron.'”

In any case, his analysis of the article, “Trucking industry’s near-term fundamentals are ‘as bad as we’ve ever witnessed’,” might be worth a look if you’re wondering what some of your customers — i.e. those railroad professionals — are saying about the industry. Find Schultz’s piece, “If the Rails Are Worried About Trucking’s Profitability, Should We?”, here.

And for more here on truck-rail relationship wrinkles, see this post from March.

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