News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 15, 2013

Indiana Rail Road benefits from Canadian contract

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Starting July 1, Indiana Rail Road will be hauling shipping containers from Chicago to Indianapolis as part of a partnership with Canadian National railroad.

Indiana importers and exporters will have an all-rail option for containerized products moving from Asia, Thomas Hoback, founder, president and chief executive officer of Indiana Rail Road, told members of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. Tuesday. Hoback was the featured speaker for the corporation’s 2013 annual meeting.

“One of the things about southwestern Indiana, if you are bringing in goods from the Far East — China, Japan, Korea — more than likely the containers will be landed in Chicago,” then driven via trucks throughout the Midwest.

That method is inefficient and costly, Hoback said.

A new Indianapolis container yard is near completion about a half mile south of Lucas Oil Stadium at Indiana Rail Road’s existing Senate Avenue Terminal. It will include an on-site agricultural products containerized export loading facility.

The shipping containers are 40-foot in length, smaller than the typical 53-foot truck container. The railroad expects to move about 30 shipping containers per day. The central Indiana shipping container market is about 60,000 containers annually and the CN/Indiana Rail Road venture seeks to capture 10,000 to 15,000 containers annually.

Import shipping containers haul electronics, retail clothing and auto parts, while exports from Indiana are largely agriculturally based such as soybeans and distillers dry grain, used for livestock feed in Asia. Indiana hardwoods are also exported to make furniture in China.

“Intermodal is going to be huge, coming in all rail, avoiding those long truck [shipments] from Chicago,” Hoback said. “It is just one more example of the kinds of things that we are doing to continue to find markets to grow our business,” Hoback said.

Indiana Rail Road Company is a privately-held, 500-mile railroad based in Indianapolis. The company hauls the equivalent of more than 800,000 truckloads of consumer, industrial and energy products each year.

Hoback said the company has had to make huge improvements, along with large capital investments, in its rail and bridge infrastructure since railroad started in 1986 and expanded in 2006.

Indiana Rail Road, by year’s end, will have spent $165 million on rail improvements.  Part of that includes a $6.5 million locomotive maintenance facility in Jasonville that will be completed in about a month, Hoback said.

The railroad’s traffic growth, Hoback said, has grown 13 percent annually for the past 27 years. “That qualifies us as a growth company by almost any definition. There is not another railroad anywhere in the world that has grown their freight franchise as much as we have and we are not done,” Hoback said.

In addition, the railroad has advanced using technology, Hoback said.

“We are the first railroad to use remote control technology to move locomotives. We worked with several vendors in the mid 1990s to perfect this technology,” he said.

“On any given day, about 30 percent of our crew starts will have just one person running the train. It is a very advanced system and we are the only railroad in North America that does that,” Hoback said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.