But what if there was some way to take a portion of those trucks off the interstate and use the rail system instead?
That’s an idea being pursued by logistics expert and entrepreneur Jeff Schwartz, who has been promoting a concept he calls Missouri Truck Ferry.
The basic idea is to build specialized rail cars that could accommodate entire tractor-trailer rigs. The trucks could simply drive up a ramp and park on the train. Over the next roughly five hours, the trucks and drivers would be ferried to the other side of the state.
“Five hours closer to your destination means five hours closer to your next load,” Schwartz said. “That’s money in the bank.”
Once reaching the other side, Schwartz said, the trucks would remain on the train until 10 hours have elapsed as a way for drivers to get their federally mandated 10 hours of off-duty time. He envisions that once trucks are parked on the train, the drivers would exit their vehicles and go to a special train car where they could sleep.
Here is how Schwartz described the scenario:
“A driver who is coming east out of Kansas on I-70 almost out of time currently looks for a place to park and then is parked there for 10 hours before he or she picks up and continues moving east. The truck ferry model says, ’How about you drive up on the back of our train, we put you to bed for the 10 hours that you have to be off duty, you wake up 250 miles richer in St. Louis with a fresh clock?’ That’s the value proposition.”
What makes Schwartz’s idea unique is his plan to have trucks, trailers and drivers all together on the train. There are several models in use today where trains carry trailers without the trucks. But Schwartz only knows one service — used to haul rigs through the Alps — where trucks, trailers and drivers are hauled together.
To date, Schwartz’s idea for Missouri Truck Ferry remains an idea. He has designs in hand for the specialized rail cars and terminal equipment needed to make Missouri Truck Ferry operational. However, there are no plans yet to begin construction or start the service. But Schwartz is passionate about the idea and continues to promote it as a way to better serve truck drivers passing through Missouri and to make a meaningful reduction in truck traffic on I-70.
“If we are able to do that cost-effectively, or at least work in the short run until a more permanent solution can be developed for the corridor, then that’s the role we would expect to play,” he said.