Green Cargo AB, Sweden’s freight rail company has a new idea. It has been backloading a few trail cars that carry new vehicles to car dealers in the north of the country with sawn lumber headed south to the Port of Malmö. While the volume is still small, the backhaul transport opens up a wealth of possibilities for lumber logistics around the world.
For the past year, Green Cargo AB, Sweden’s freight rail company, has been backloading a few wagons that carry new vehicles to car dealers in the north of the country with sawn lumber headed south. From the port of Malmö, the lumber is loaded onto trucks and then exported to other countries in Europe, notably Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary.
The new business hasn’t exactly transformed forest products logistics in Sweden. Only about two to five wagons are being filled this way on any given week. However, this seemingly simple backloading venture points to a new logistics calculus, one that combines economics with environmental considerations.
The concept appears straightforward and makes perfect sense, since the alternative in the past has been to move empty wagons and transport the wood products by truck or separate rail. But the story behind the move shows just how difficult and time-consuming a switch like this can be. Not only did Green Cargo have to demonstrate this method was cost-effective as well as environmentally beneficial, but must break through resistance to change, not to mention overcome existing contracts.
“There have been a lot of things that we needed to sort out…different hurdles we ran into,” explained Richard Kirchner, Green Cargo’s director of sales. “Changing a logistical flow means investing in time and energy.”
“It depends on many different” variables, added Bjorn Larsson, the terminal manager in the southern Swedish port of Malmö, where the car shipments originate and sawn lumber is received. “The market is now ready to see the possibility of backloading on rail.”
Sweden isn’t alone in attempting to tackle the twin issues of boosting forestry products and backloading. For example, a recent study by the British freight rail concern, Colas Rail, focused on unmet potential in hauling forestry products in Scotland, while positing ways to backload wagons as a means to drive down costs.
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