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Pocatello intermodal terminal to help farmers ship crops

photo of intermodal terminal site

This will be the site of an intermodal terminal in Pocatello that will enable Idaho farmers to ship their crops more economically. Photo courtesy of Savage Services

Savage Services of Midvale, Utah announced the immediate construction on March 24 of Idaho’s first intermodal rail terminal at the Union Pacific railyard in Pocatello. The facility is expected to open for business this summer, in time for most of the wheat and barley harvest.

“Idaho’s agricultural and business communities need dependable transportation to get product into global markets,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little in a statement. “Transportation infrastructure projects like this rail terminal in Pocatello can create opportunities for Idaho businesses to grow and can help support export prospects for more agriculture producers.”

Intermodal shipping has taken over long-distance freight, especially for loads going overseas using the now-globalized standard container, also known as an intermodal container, ISO container, c-can, sea van or Conex box. Regardless of what it’s called, these  40-foot steel shipping containers can be double-stacked on flatbed rail cars, pulled as part of a tractor-trailer rig or piled high on the decks of a container ship.

Once Savage has the terminal completed, the firm will load the shipping containers onto Union Pacific trains bound for ports operated by the Northwest Seaport Alliance in Seattle and Tacoma. From there, Idaho products can cross the Pacific headed to east Asia.

“This new business is uniquely focused on Idaho shippers’ needs and the global economic impact Pacific Northwest exports have around the world,” said Kari Kirchhoefer, Union Pacific vice president for marketing and sales premium, in a statement. “Union Pacific’s unique collaboration with Savage uses intermodal containers heading to the Northwest ports. This partnership makes the most of the container’s round trip and saves truck drayage costs for Idaho shippers by providing a direct rail option.”

“We will be able to ship dry products like hay or grain,” Savage spokesperson Jeff Hymas told the Idaho Business Review. “There are so many agricultural products from Idaho this can be used for, and it will increase the opportunity to supply them to international markets…We hope to expand to refrigerated products in the future.”

Hymas did not have price comparisons available: “Rates are proprietary between the shipper and the customer. The cost depends on the whole supply chain, the volume of the shipment, the distance it must travel and many other factors…On our end, we charge for loading the containers on the rail cars.”

From barley field to trans-Pacific port, there are multiple pieces involved in moving a product, and the intermodal terminal is just one piece. In general, however, an intermodal terminal in Pocatello can put Idaho products on long-distance rail faster and quicker than trucking them out-of-state. “(For export), it’s so much better to load intermodal in Pocatello compared to trucking those products down to Salt Lake for loading or directly out to the Pacific Northwest,” Hymas added.

The rail advantage is obvious. Since the OPEC oil embargo, rail has had a clear cost advantage for loads traveling for than 600 miles, according to shipping logistics firm Commerce Express. On the average, rail costs $4.23 per mile-ton, whereas trucks cost $18.83 per mile-ton, according to the latest figures (2018) from the Federal  Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

When asked why Savage decided to site an intermodal facility in Pocatello, Hymas replied that: “We’ve been looking at siting an intermodal facility in Idaho for a number of years. Our choice of the railyard in Pocatello is the result of a lot of conversations with many different people. It was clear there was a need and that there was a market (for intermodal shipping).”

“We’re excited that Savage chose Pocatello for their intermodal facility,” said Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad in a statement. “With the new facility, goods from businesses across Idaho will have an easier time getting to markets overseas.”

“We’re excited to serve Idaho producers and shippers with intermodal export service,” said Kirk Aubry, Savage president and CEO. “The ability to ship containers out of Idaho directly to the Pacific Northwest by rail will open up supply chains and allow more Idaho businesses to access global markets.”

“As one of the top agricultural export gateways in North America, the Northwest Seaport Alliance congratulates Savage, Union Pacific Railroad, the city of Pocatello and the State of Idaho for partnering on this innovative project to support U.S. farmers and agricultural exports,” said Commissioner Dick Marzano, Northwest Seaport Alliance co-chair. “The new service will help lower export costs and increase volumes through our gateway. The Northwest Seaport Alliance looks forward to the successful launch of this new initiative.”

Savage Services started in 1946 with the three Savage brothers and their father, plus one truck hauling construction materials to the Uinta Basin and coal back to American Falls, Utah. Since then, the Savage family built its small trucking business into an large multimodal shipping and logistics firm operating in the Unite States, Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

About Catie Clark

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