• How much UPS goes by rail?

  • For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.
For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by carajul
Just wondering how much of UPS freight goes by rail? When you ship via ground service and it goes cross country, is it likely a semi trailer is on a flat car? I sent a medium box last week from NY to CA and I called UPS today to track it and the lady told me "it's on rail now".

A few years ago I drove cross country on the NY-CA route as it's called by truckers. I saw a ton of long haul Fedex freight trucks. But no UPS.

If I was a shipping company like UPS, I think it would make more sense to me to have a trail full of truck trailers going cross country than have individual trucks driving all the way.
  by Ken W2KB
As I pass on NJT through Bound Brook and on the Lehigh Line portion I frequently see UPS shipments.
  by ladder2
To answer your question, read Trains Magazine July 2006 , the article on FREIGHT RAILROADS, "INSIDE WILLOW SPRINGS" by Matt Van Hatten, it contains a very clear article on this BNSF yard and how BNSF and UPS work side by side scheduleing
trains, trailers, etc. Very enlightening article, it will answer all your questions. Basically the rails carry 40% of UPS freight; 40% of LTL carriers such as Roadway, ABF, Yellow etc; and 20 % of Truckload carriers such asSchneider National, JB Hunt, CFI etc. But the informationcontained applies to NS, CSX, and UP also as far as expediting trailers cross country, or west coast to Chicago, or Chicago to east coast.
  by drewg350
I'll tell you what, I see ALOT of UPS intermodels running thru Bound Brook. From all the time I've spent out there Friday seems to be the best or busiest day, and especially busy Friday night thru lunch time Saturday. You can catch ALOT of trains on Friday night. Usually see alot of intermodels and auto carriers, but still alot of mixed freight too. I got lucky (for me anyway) and filmed Norfolk Southern 6700 head unit with 2 bright yellow Union Pacific's pulling a 90+ intermodel. I've seen I caught it on video standing by the "hot box" info off of South Ave. Do UP's come thru once in a while or are they a rare site? This was the first and only UP's I've ever seen coming thru.
  by litz
UPS has entire unit trains on the east-west, west-east runs.

It's simply more efficient that the equivalent # of tractor cabs hauling trailers, even with their dual trailers.

UPS even has tracking information that tracks packages through their shipment on rail, including possible exceptions "LATE TRAIN" and "TRAIN DERAILMENT"

(note that a derailment msg doesn't mean the UPS train derailed, but rather that it was delayed by a derailment ahead of it)

- litz
  by roadster
Most standard UPS shipped items go by UPS Ground, 7-10 day delivery depending on how far it needs to travel. More than 500 miles, it will most likely be on a train. Obviously if priority next day, by air, 2-3 day by OTR truck. I've tracked shipments I have ordered and watch them depart a rail facility and arrive at my nearest rail facility and it's at my door usually a couple days after.
  by 2nd trick op
I'm not personally aware of any "unit" train dedicated exclusively to UPS service, but there are many schedules where UPS is the dominant shipper. When I first started out in the regulated trucking industry of forty years ago, we would frequently get calls from "expediters", usually from the major automakers, seeking the whereabouts of particular shipments; we sometimes had to choose our words very carefully if these trailers had been "railed". I'm sure UPS shipments have a similar, closely-monitored status today.

In contrast. Federal Express got its start handling high-value, low-weight-and-volume traffic more suited to air carriage; it didn't get into the surface-trnasportation business until it acquired Harrison, Ark.-based American Freightways in 2001. Reportedly, most of FedEx Ground's fleet is not suited to intermodal service.

DHL quit the domestic U S package-delivery market in the winter of 2008-2009. It never moved any substantial amount of traffic by rail, serving its regional hubs mostly from a central sorting and break-bulk facility near Dayton, Ohio. I would occasionally encounter intermodal trailers lettered for Danzas International, the European freight forwarder that acquired DHL from its American founders, moving via TOFC/COFC.
  by slchub
I agree with 2nd trick. I've not seen a dedicated UPS train on the UP. You do see UPS trailers mixed with FedEx Ground, Swift and JB Hunt trailers on thier Z trains.
  by slchub
Well, here you have just what I spoke of earlier. I don't think Swift, J B Hunt or UPS are going to be happy.....

Dozens of the truck trailers were a twisted mess, some of them spilling cargo through gaping holes. Most of the trailers bore the logo of J.B. Hunt trucking company, although Swift trucking and UPS trailers were also in the wreckage.

http://www.ajc.com/news/train-derails-i ... 94585.html
  by 2nd trick op
Well, here you have just what I spoke of earlier. I don't think Swift, J B Hunt or UPS are going to be happy.....
Those three will take it in stride. They do enough business with railroads that a loss is expected now and then.

The degree of participation in rail intermodal service varies greatly among carriers. Hunt and Schneider (which featured a BNSF intermodal train on their calendar and website at one time) are more or less completely committed to it. Swift doesn't appear to be too far behind and I saw Heartland, Stevens and Scheugel on a regular basis when I lived nest to NS' Reading mainline.

Omaha-based Werner, which I got a closer look at becasue I'm both a stockholder and sought work there at one time, is another story. They maintain an intermodal "desk", but use it sparingly. Clarence Werner, the founder, used to say that when he and a few associates were first starting out back in the Fifites, they could always take a back-haul away from the railroad.

Along the NS/CP Sunbury Sub and its Upper Lehigh Sub feeder, where I now live, there's very little intermodal traffic except for maritime containers coming south from Canada, presumably Saint John or Halifax. NS does run solid intermodals north/south froom Jersey, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, however.

A PRR calendar from the mid-Fifties depicts what was called "Plan I TOFC" - the trailers of well known motor carriers of the day on flatcars. Cooper-Jarrett went out of business 1n 1979 and while there is again an Eastern Freightways with an "on the ball" logo similar to the original, it's actually a re-incarnation of a bankrupt. Most motor carriers shunned TOFC except in times of peak demand. And one of the first lessons a dispatcher learns in that business is the need for balance. if a trailer moves east on the highway, you're gointg to have to use the driver and "horse" to bring it back.

Long-term, greater co-operation beteen rail and motor carriers is a sure thing, but a slow process.
  by QB 52.32
carajul wrote:Just wondering how much of UPS freight goes by rail?
I think a good estimate would be in the neighborhood of 500-750,000 annual units (28' and 48' trailers and 28' containers) nationwide.

There is one train (service) dedicated solely to UPS above and beyond the occasional chartered train. It runs once each week from LA to NY/NJ and New England via BNSF and CSX. Not sure if BNSF runs a dedicated train as UP once did at the start of service about 10 years ago, but it is a dedicated UPS train on CSX including a split into 2 trains at Selkirk NY. The dedicated service was established to speed up UPS' service to their customers in these lanes for one day of the week. I believe it's for packages picked up on Mondays which, because of the weekend, were delivered the following Monday via regular schedules, but with the dedicated service are now available for Friday delivery.
  by CPSK
Bump up: I had the same question today, so I Googled it. Found this thread, but here is an interesting article about the UPS mega-facility near Chicago (it's called the Chicago Area Consolidation Hub, or CACH). It is located in the cities of Hodgkins and Willow Springs Ill.
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/i ... ule--37645

  by Backshophoss
As the "X-mas" surge ramps up,Both UPS and Wal*mart will lease many "rent a wreck" trailers from GE leasing and
Transport Pool and tend to reserve large blocks of space on intermodal trains to move their trailers,at times
blocking other carriers trying to book a few spots on certain trains.
As the shortage of OTR drivers grows,more of the major fleets put trailers and 53' domestic containers on the rail,
Werner has been putting more trailers on the rail in recent years,as England has done with a dedicated trailer fleet.
Schneider and Swift have expanded their 53' domestic container/chassis fleets to meet demand.

UPS at times will lease team drivers and trailers from the major fleets to meet the "X-mas" delivery deadlines