Bogies, Trains and Trucks


“Supply Chain Today” attended a recent UJ (Univ of JHB) Transport Forum where Mike Daniel, CEO of RailRunner South Africa (RRSA) told the audience that bimodal sustainability in logistics places equal importance on the first mile, the long haul and the last mile.

“Send the goods as far as you can by rail; then put them onto road – much cheaper.” But costs do run up when you switch from one mode of transport to another while opportunity for damage and theft increases.

Heavy lifting equipment and working hours add to the bill, leaving logistics providers with a problem. This solution doesn’t necessarily remove the headache.

The logical solution is eliminating the need for specialised lifting equipment and ports, by making use of existing rail networks in South Africa. RailRunner is a door-to-door transportation solution that spans road and rail.

In layman’s terms, containers are fitted with wheels suitable for road use, and loaded onto trailers on rail. When they are moved from rail to road, they are simply taken off the trailers and hitched to a truck.

Cost efficiency is achievable

“Purpose-built chassis or trailers for standard containers are used for rail and highway operations, and bespoke trailers for specific markets,” Mike explains.

“RailRunner allows for long haul efficiency by using rail, and last mile flexibility by using the highway. Moving from one to the other takes minutes,” he points out.

“This bimodal solution reduces carbon emissions and driver fatigue and improves the security of the cargo (transport on rail is air-cushioned).”

In the old days, Mike tells us that the first container was shipped on April 1956. It took ten days to unload 5 000 tonnes. “Today it can be done in three hours.” RailRunner saves even those three hours.

“There is no transhipment of cargo and the most efficient transport system is used for each leg of the journey cutting costs and improving delivery times through the logistics chain. Bimodal allows bulk delivery to sortation centre from the source.”

Not in competition with road

Mike stresses that RailRunner does not put rail and road in competition. “We want to assist the truckers by offering a lower cost solution.”

Bimodal technology aims to address infrastructure shortfalls, relieve road congestion, improve supply chain efficiency and reduce the cost of logistics, without compromising delivery schedules.

Reports have shown that using bimodal rail and road logistics solutions has the benefit of less time on the road, which gives truck drivers fewer late nights, fewer long hauls and more time at home with their families.

RailRunner reduces infrastructure capital and maintenance, road accidents and deaths. “There is an improvement in the socioeconomic benefit for drivers, but not at the expense of volumes,” Mike observes.

Using this solution can result in a 20% cost benefit, a substantial saving customers and providers will appreciate.

Business opportunities

Already in use in several countries, RailRunner South Africa (a subsidiary of RailRunner USA) is planning test runs on the Cape to Gauteng route in 2018.

“We will be driving Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy (MDS),” Mike explains. This strategy aims to expand and modernise the country’s ports, rail and pipeline infrastructure with a view to achieving a significant increase in freight volumes.

“Rail volumes are projected to increase from approximately 200 million tons to 350 million tons over the next seven years. By 2019, Transnet Freight Rail will increase its market share of container traffic to 92% from 72% currently, which in turn, will have a significant impact on reducing the cost of doing business,” according to a Transnet statement.

RRSA has a need for local partners especially when it comes to bogie and trailer manufacturers, and network terminal operators. RNS, a joint venture between RRSA and Transnet, will operate terminal-to-terminal logistics operations.

RRSA has its eye on SADC markets, moving goods from agriculture, food, general mining and junior mining industries, as well as coal for Eskom.

Sustainability built in

Mike is an advocate for sustainability in logistics. “Consumers want to have the earth around for their kids and grandkids and are making certain decisions to reduce pollution.

“Over 70% of consumers will pay an extra five percent given a sustainable solution,” he comments.

The environmental impact of fewer trucks on the roads is easy to spot. Less congestion is better for air quality and drivers’ frame of mind. On rail, the ’trains’ of containers are fitted close together and there is less wind resistance, making for a total lower energy cost for logistics providers.

“Bi-modal is an efficient, super cost-effective genuine world class solution,” Mike concludes.

RRSA, Mike Daniel

Tel: (011) 462-0577