The BNSF Railway has rolled out an integrated dispatch system for pickup and delivery of ocean containers and domestic equipment at their major intermodal facilities. The system called RailPass is designed to allow drivers to quickly enter and exit yards utilizing “Quick Response” technology. Cargo information is entered through a mobile application on the driver’s smart phone. The gate then issues a pickup or delivery ticket providing the location of outbound equipment or a slot for inbound loads. The app even offers emergency response within the yard, sending first responders to GPS coordinates through the driver’s phone. Currently drivers pre-register through the UIIA (see Uniform Intermodal Interchange & Facilities Agreement www.Uiia.org
) and present their ID upon arrival to begin a paperwork process which could take over 10 minutes to complete. RailPass cuts that time in half and reduces the need for drivers to stop at the “trouble desk” in case of equipment problems or slot location issues that would add additional time to the move. According to Progressive Railroading as of April over 8,000 drivers have signed up to use the application, which requires registration with a CDL number and issuing state information.
I previewed part of the application and noted it was accessible at 26 major intermodal hubs including BNSF Commerce, which serves the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach, Logistics Park Chicago and the Seattle International Gateway. In a statement issued by the BN, they indicated that additional intermodal hubs would come on line throughout 2016.
The port of L.A. noted that about 10% of their rail volume moves off dock as referenced in recent presentations regarding the SCIG and Intermodal activity. Quick Response technology could improve turn times and speed the flow of “Off Dock” rail, which would also improve throughput at area ocean terminals. The Southern California Intermodal Rail Analysis projects the BN to move 4,109,247 ocean and or domestic containers across their facilities in Commerce and San Bernardino both of which accept RailPass. Regional truckers noted the application is beginning to gain interest but might have more value if other railroads had similar applications or there was an integrated system throughout all Class 1 carriers. As ocean terminals and rail yards seek to speed the flow of equipment through their gates, it’ll be interesting to see what other applications (pun intended) can be found for “Quick Response” technology.