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Norfolk Southern initiative incentivizes loaded trucks out of Chicago

Incentive of $200 offered at intermodal facilities in Chicago and Kansas City

Norfolk Southern is testing a pilot program at the busy Landers intermodal facility in Chicago, offering a $200 incentive to truck carriers and steamship lines each time a drayage driver brings in and departs with a shipping container.

The Dual Mission Reward Program is also being conducted at NS’ Kansas City intermodal facility in Missouri.

“Trucks leaving the terminal that were formerly empty now become loaded, productive miles for the truckers,” said D’Andrae Larry, NS group vice president of international marketing.

“The amount of truck time saved by gaining an immediate load versus leaving the terminal to find a load, the emissions reduction, the employee productivity gains are all wins for sustainability in the marketplace.”

NS (NYSE: NSC) said Monday the program resulted from brainstorming with customers and truckers on how to reduce pandemic-related bottlenecks across the supply chain.

“We continually look for ways to partner with our customers and the marketplace to drive efficiency and achieve our goals for growth and productivity,” Larry said.

Indeed, supply chain congestion in 2021 exacerbated the challenges of keeping the rail network surrounding Chicago fluid, not just for NS but for other Class I railroads. In July, Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) temporarily suspended eastbound service from West Coast port terminals to its Global IV intermodal facility in Chicago to help ease “significant congestion” at inland terminals, especially Chicago, and at the ports. 

The railroads sought to relieve inland terminal congestion in other areas through actions such as BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.B)  reopening of an intermodal facility near Memphis, CSX’s (NASDAQ: CSX) use of overflow yards in Chicago and the NS reopenings of intermodal terminals in south central Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Truckers who deliver an intermodal container to an NS intermodal terminal typically leave empty about 85% of the time due to a lack of coordination between U.S. customers and those abroad that use the containers, according to NS. 

But if truckers take part in the program at Landers for at least 50% of the time, the initiative could result in eliminating roughly 46,000 truck trips, reducing fuel use by 546,000 gallons and preventing the release of over 5,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually, NS calculated.

“This program offers an innovative solution to a supply-chain issue that’s a win for everybody – the truck drivers, the environment, local communities, and us,” Josh Raglin, NS Chief Sustainability Officer, said in a release. “This is a perfect example of how we are applying a sustainability mindset to everyday business situations.”

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.