Re: Lumber and plywood by rail?
Date: 04-08-2021 - 22:41
You are correct about the ability of newer mills to consume a greater volume of logs than an older mill can. Also correct about sorting logs in the woods. I help manage 15 logging operations scattered over a very large geographic area. There are definitely regional differences, however it is very common for there to be multiple destinations on a job based on species, quality, quotas, size of logs, and changing market conditions. I would say that due to the ever decreasing amount of log trucks (Mostly driver shortage related for multiple reasons)and rising cost of operating those trucks, there is definitely an opportunity to move some of those logs to reloads and increase the trucks efficiency from 1-2 loads a day in some locations to 3-4 to a reload. You see this with the two reload yards in Eugene, Or and the one on the Albany Eastern in Crabtree (Lebanon, Or area). There has been lots of talk within timber companies and logging contractors about ideas of setting up other locations, but then the ugly reality sets in that the UP makes it almost impossible to make it easy or viable due to switch fees with short lines and their general lack of interest. There are several short lines around which would be great to work with, but once you involve the UP, it is a go nowhere issue. Too bad the UP has no interest in actual customer service. Short lines and branchlines suffer tremendously as a result and so do the timber owners, mills and highways.
The same goes for mills shipping out lumber, plywood or especially wood chips. There is absolutely zero to negative interest in the movement of wood chips. Mills often complain about ordering cars for outbound lumber and they donít show up on time, sit and donít move for periods of time and they get generally poor service on both ends of the shipment. Most mills really donít like the railroad due to the poor customer service experience. Short lines are the bright spot depending on the railroad. There are some that are well liked, but they are at the mercy of the class one. The general consensus I hear is that The BNSF is way better to deal with than the UP, although there is room for improvement there too. Itís time for railroad management to stop acting like their customers need them and act like the railroads need their customers like any good business does. If they treated their customers with some respect, and actually took an interest in how they can help their customers grow and expand their business, we would be looking at a very different railroad and business scene. I feel for those good shortline operators who count on every carload and treat their customers well. I wish them the best.