Transportation: My Take

Transportation: My Take

During my time in the transportation industry, I have been involved in transporting a live rhino and hippo between the Toronto and Calgary zoos and a high-speed marine vehicle for the Secret Service of the United States in order to protect the President.

While these two instances provide interesting stories, they do not begin to reflect the importance and economic impact of the Over the Road transportation industry in Canada and North America overall. According to the latest statistics available from the Government of Canada, 72% of goods in this country travel over the road followed by 21% by rail (this includes bulk commodities such as grain and coal) and 7% by marine. What this means is that what you are wearing, what you are eating and what you are sitting on likely came to you via truck along with numerous items you use on a daily basis.

The transportation chain can vary in length from extremely long to extremely short depending on the goods in question and the market they are destined for. Goods from overseas for the most part, arrive on container vessels and generally are in 20’ or 40’ lengths. The standard for measuring a container vessel’s container capacity is the acronym TEU (or Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), representing a 20’ container. A container vessel is defined as one that can carry between 10,000 to 20,000 TEUs, with an Ultra container vessel, that is one with a capacity in excess of 20,000 TEUs.

Containers that have consignees (i.e., customers who purchased the cargo and are having it delivered to them) in the port of arrival utilize a local service called drayage or cartage to have the containers delivered to their business. Once the container is empty it is returned to a location designated by the steamship line. This has to be done in a relatively expeditious manner as charges are incurred for containers that remain out of the steamship lines possession for any length of time. That length of time is dependent on what agreement the customer has made with the steamship line. These “local drays” are done on a round-trip basis.

Long-haul container transportation via truck can be done in a couple of different ways; taking the container directly to the consignee or by transloading the cargo at a local warehouse. If the steamship line will allow for the empty container to be left at a CY (container yard) close to the consignee’s destination that is generally the more economical way to go. If the steamship line insists that the container be returned to the port it arrived in, transloading might be a more viable option.

Direct transportation of an intact container can have its own limitations and drawbacks but that is a subject for another time.

Transloading involves three separate steps; the local dray from the port, the actual transloading from the container to another form of transportation and the return of the empty container to a location designated by the steamship line. Local drayage rates vary from port to port and it is worth while determining your entire round-trip costs prior to employing a drayage carrier. Warehouse transload charges also vary from one location to another and again it is a worthwhile exercise to determine your costs before committing to one location over another. Some of the factors governing the price of a transload are; the size of the container, the weight of the container, the number of pieces and whether the cargo is on pallets or on the floor. If the customer wishes the cargo to be palletized there is of course an additional cost to that.

Choosing a transload warehouse can also be affected by the final destination of the cargo; whether it remains in the country of the port it landed in or is destined for furtherance out of the country. In the latter case Customs comes into play but again, that is a subject for another time. Until then.

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