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Shipping Nursery Stock via Intermodal Rail

February 13, 2014 Rick LaGore

Nursery Variety

While winter snow and sub-zero temperatures make it hard for most of us to imagine Spring is just around the corner, those in the nursery stock business are gearing up for their peak Spring season.  From March 1 to June 1 nursery stock growers ship roughly 75% of their yearly sales.  The annual surge can make it difficult to obtain cost competitive truckload capacity.  

What will be outlined below is why nurseries should considered converting truckload to intermodal or to augment truckload lanes with 53' domestic intermodal capacity. 

Reasons Nursery Stock Companies are Considering Intermodal

Truckload to intermodal rail conversion is on the rise.  Rising fuel costs, driver shortages, increased regulations are starting to take its toll on truckload capacity and cost.  At the same time, railroads have invested tens of billions in infrastructure, technology and people that are making the misconceptions about intermodal fade away in shippers' minds.  The result is domestic 53' intermodal is the fastest domestic transportation market and continues to have multiple record growth years.  

Intermodal transportation services have evolved to a point where railroads specialized niches have been developed and nursery stock programs are now in place with the major railroads.  The goal of the new service is to give nursery growers and buyers a one stop shop that simplifies their shipping needs; takes away the unknowns that may come from using intermodal for the first time; and have a service that meets the needs of the industry.

With one phone call nursery stock shippers have access to the following:

  • All inclusive flat fee

  • Origin pick-up

  • Railroad line haul

  • Destination delivery

  • Two hours of free time at origin and another two hours of free time at destination for loading and unloading the trailer

  • Cleaning and special handling required by the nursery business

  • Real-time tracking and tracing

  • Customized reporting

The challenges the nursery stock business has with schedule reliability, transits, equipment availability and flexibility with loading can be addressed in the intermodal nursery stock programs by:

  • Using single drops or setting up drop pools
  • Pooling and/or assembling multiple stop intermodal loads
  • Augmenting truck lanes for the additional peak capacity required
  • Capacity is can be a big concern in peak season and by definition, intermodal has more options to throw a great deal of capacity on a lane than truck options

Two areas to be aware of as a nursery stock shipper:

    1. The one shortcoming of the service is intermodal refer capacity is still fairly limited.  Refer capacity is available, but will require shippers to plan ahead for success.

    2. Nursery stock intermodal services carry a $500 liability coverage per load.

Additional resources:

Next Steps for Shipping Nursery Stock Via Intermodal

Hopefully you found this article helpful.  We would love to be a resource for your company to consider when looking further into your logistics and supply chain requirements.  We understand the process is different for everyone, but working through the a step-by-step process you’ll surely find the best fit for your company.  

If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.

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