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Transportation comprises 66% of a shipper’s total logistics costs. Are your rail cars or trucks being shipped full?

31 August 2017

The cost of shipping dry bulk materials such as grain, coal or sand can be the most expensive part of a product cost especially when you consider the challenges associated with loading rail cars and trucks. For example, if you fill the car too much, there are considerable safety concerns, delays, and even fines that could be incurred. But, if you conservatively leave space in the car to avoid an overfilling, you are paying to ship air!

According to the Association of American Railroads, “A hopper car carrying more than it is designed for can cause a breakdown in the wheel assembly. A loaded car weighing more than the rail line’s capacity can also cause the track to break down. In either case, the breakdown can lead to a derailment with all the danger, inconvenience and expense that such an accident involves.”1 With this in mind, it is understandable that oftentimes, when loading dry bulk materials, the car will only be filled to 90% capacity. However, when you think about it, if all of the rail cars could safely be filled to capacity, it would only take nine cars to ship the product that today takes ten. How many empty rail cars are you shipping?

Is there any way to reduce shipping costs?

According to CSX, on average, transportation comprises 66% of a shipper’s total logistics costs.2 One of the most straight-forward ways to optimize shipping costs is to ensure you are taking full advantage of your truck or rail capacity. Using a single idler belt scale, you can accurately measure bulk material as it is loaded in the car. With an accuracy of +/- 0.5%, rail cars and trucks can be loaded to 99.5% of capacity, reducing total shipping cost by as much as 9% and avoiding the risk associated with overfilling.

You can also get a certified belt scale with an accuracy of +/-0.25% when using a two idler scale, which has the loading capacity up to 99.75%. Both of these belt scales can provide an instantaneous flow rate and an accumulated total of material as it is loaded. By using a batch controller, you are then able to receive a relay output when the rail car or truck is full. This can be used to tell the operator when to stop the filling process.

What are you doing to esure you are safely getting the most for your shipping dollars?