Norfolk Southern opens bulk terminal in S.C.

By Chuck Crumbo
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published July 3, 2013

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — Norfolk Southern has opened a new bulk transfer terminal, designed for the movement commodities between rail cars and trucks in the Midlands of South Carolina.

The site at 1861 Old Dunbar Road is less than two miles from Interstate 26 and near Columbia Metropolitan Airport. It also could serve as a solution to moving some truck traffic of the state’s highway system.

One of the rail cars used by Norfolk Southern for bulk shipments of liquid commodities. (Photo/Norfolk Southern)
One of the rail cars used by Norfolk Southern for bulk shipments of liquid commodities. (Photo/Norfolk Southern)
The terminal features a 5-acre paved lay-down area that can handle dry and liquid bulk commodities such as flour, sugar and plastic pellets, as well as aggregates, steel and lumber, said Robin Chapman, spokesman for the Norfolk, Va.-headquartered transportation company.

“The new facility allows us to expand our transload service into the Columbia area,” Chapman said, adding that the facility has been in the works for a year. “It also allows us to service additional markets.”

Besides the Columbia area, the terminal serves points east such as Darlington, Florence, Hartsville, Orangeburg and Sumter — all in South Carolina.

The terminal is one of 31 bulk transfer sites along the Norfolk Southern line in the United States. The company has similar terminals in Augusta, Ga.; Spartanburg; and Charlotte, N.C.

Other Norfolk Southern bulk transfer terminals in the region are in Alexandria, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn. (two); Dalton, Ga.; Doraville, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; Meridian, Miss.; Miami, Fla.; Petersburg, Va.; Roanoke, Va.; Somerset, Ky.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.

The West Columbia terminal allows customers without rail sidings to receive the benefits of rail economics and service, Chapman said. It also reduces the number of trucks traveling the highways, he said.

For example, instead of a truck hauling a tanker full of chemicals from a plant in Pennsylvania to Columbia, the product can be transported by train to Columbia. A truck then moves it to the local customer.

“The only truck movement is a local truck movement,” Chapman said.

According to the S.C. Trucking Association, more than 80% of the state’s communities depend exclusively on trucks to move goods.

“Trucks transport 84% of total manufactured tonnage in the state, or 424,585 tons per day,” the association said.

However, the trucking industry is struggling to deal with a looming shortage of drivers resulting from tighter federal regulations and rising fuel prices that are driving up shipping costs.

The S.C. Department of Transportation is in the midst of pulling together a statewide transportation plan that’s scheduled to be released in January.

The plan will prioritize future transportation infrastructure requirements and serve as a tool to spur job creation, business expansion and education. It also will analyze infrastructure requirements, as well as rail, freight and transit components.

As part of SCDOT’s effort to draw up a transportation plan, it has held meetings around the state to understand statewide freight needs, find ways to reduce bottlenecks, and improve efficiency on the interstate highways and other corridors.

Although owned by Norfolk Southern, the terminals are licensed to and operated by independent contractors who are experts in bulk transfer and distribution.

The Columbia terminal is operated under license by RSI Leasing Inc., headquartered in Okemos, Mich.

Norfolk Southern has a network of 31 bulk transfer facilities in 17 states.

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