Union Pacific Railroad Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Union Pacific Railroad Logistics

The Union Pacific Railroad is the largest railroad in the nation, and it serves 23 western states, with agreements with other railroads to link it to the East Coast. It was one of the first railroads to operate in the West, it participated in the building of the transcontinental railroad, and it continues to make history today. It has participated in a variety of new technologies, and it is one of the largest logistic and intermodal companies in the country. It operates several different logistical operations, including Union Pacific Intermodal, and it operates many different terminals around the country with state-of-the-art technologies.

The purpose of this paper is to introduce, discuss, and analyze the topic of transportation. Specifically it will discuss the different types of transportation modes the Union Pacific railroad is involved in throughout the country. Union Pacific is one of the country's most historic railroads, and today, it is involved in numerous types of transportation models, including intermodal transportation.

The Union Pacific railroad is one of the first railroads to operate in the West in America's history. Together with the Central Pacific Railroad in California, the Union Pacific (UP) helped construct the historic transcontinental railroad that linked Omaha, Nebraska with Alameda, California, and that changed the way people and goods were transported in the 19th century. The railroad made it possible for people to travel longer distances in greater comfort, and it changed the way goods got to market, as well. It was possible to transport items far greater distances, and it was possible for them to reach a much broader market. The railroad was completed in 1869, with the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory, Utah, and representatives of both railroads were present. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Railroad Act in 1862 that enabled the railroads to build their lines. In Omaha, the line connected with existed railroads, so it effectively linked both coasts, creating amazing transportation opportunities.

The Union Pacific's history has grown and altered since its beginnings. Only three years after the transcontinental railroad was completed, the Union Pacific faced bankruptcy through a great scandal. The company that built the rails drastically overcharged them, and it almost cost the company its life. The scandal included bribing congressional representatives and stock manipulations. However, the railroad came back, and began to diversify and buy up other railroads to make it stronger. In 1936, the railroad founded the Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho, and the company's engineers created the first chair lift for the resort, indicating how diversified the company was becoming. In the 20th century, UP began to create other companies in the automotive, agricultural, chemicals, and their intermodal unit (Editors). They have continued to innovate in the transportation arena, creating an 18,000-foot long "supertrain" to help move more goods quickly, and maintaining relationships with other railroads in order to use their tracks to move UP trains. In 2009, they created an expedited refrigerator train that combined logistics with the Norfolk Southern railroad that expedited cold-storage shipping between Los Angeles and Atlanta. The train promised shippers it could travel at least 600 miles per day, and their shipments would be protected from spoilage by having service available at the UP yards in Texas (Berman, 2009). In 2009, they shipped 1.25 million intermodal shipments domestically, and they are the largest railroad operation in the country, with nearly 45,000 employees, and several different divisions, including Union Pacific Distribution Services (UPDS), and Union Pacific Intermodal.

Currently, Union Pacific has numerous logistical operations, including many types of intermodal transportation options. Intermodal transportation involves the use of more than one type of transportation to get goods or people to their destinations without using more than one container. UP has become a leader in national intermodal transportation, and they have developed several subsidiary companies that deal in intermodal transportation for their customers. Today, intermodal shipping is standard, with containers that fit on railway cars, trucks, and ships the most common method of shipping items around the world. The UP Web site notes about its intermodal shipping, "The railroad moves trailers, domestic containers and international steamship containers holding consumer goods, auto parts and other products within the United States and between the United States, Canada and Mexico" (Editors, 2009). Intermodal shipping grew dramatically in the 1990s, and Union Pacific merged with several other companies to enhance their own growth in logistics and intermodal shipping. An author notes, "By 1992, railroads handled more than 6.7 million trailers and containers, results that made that year the twelfth consecutive period in which intermodal traffic experienced growth" (Burns, 1998, p. 148). Union Pacific has been a leader in logistics, specifically in the Western and Midwestern U.S., (west of the Mississippi), and they continue to be a leader in logistics and transportation today.

There are several reasons for Union Pacific to become more interested in logistics. More customers are demanding better management of their transportation shipments, and UP has diversified into several divisions that help their customers manage their shipments more effectively. For example, Union Pacific Distribution Services (UPDS) manages every aspect of a shipment, from rail, ship, and truck transport to warehousing and even distribution if the customer wants it. This division helps large and small companies, and handles all the logistics, making it a full-service logistics manager. Studies indicate that UPDS has helped save many shippers large amounts of their shipping budgets by streamlining shipping costs and times, and being more efficient in warehousing and delivery.

Rail transport can be far more effective in many areas of transportation, as well. Another author notes, "Rail transport lacks the flexibility of the rubber wheel kind, but it has other advantages that make it far superior when the circumstances allow. The biggest is a unique quality of the technology itself. Steel wheels on steel rafts meet with very little rolling resistance" (Longman, 2009). That means that rail shipment is more energy-efficient, and that is another area where UP has tried to make changes in their operations. They are testing new filters that make their engines more energy-efficient while reducing harmful emissions, and they have used green technology in constructing new, state-of-the-art shipping facilities in Dallas, Texas (Arbona, 2005). Another writer notes, "Manufacturers have taken note that, based on gross ton miles, trains can carry a ton of freight 830 miles on a single gallon of fuel; trucks stretch a gallon only 200 miles" (Greenburg, 2009). Union Pacific is using these statistics to gain more high-end customers, like luxury autos, who are more concerned with environmentally friendly shipping options.

The United Pacific Intermodal unit operates several large intermodal terminals around the country, and C.H. Robinson, an independent logistic company, named it the best intermodal rail carrier of 2009. The intermodal terminals use advanced technology to speed up unloading and transfer of cargo, and they collaborate with many trucking firms to manage delivery and fulfillment. UP also bought several trucking firms in the 1980s and 90s in order to offer and then expand their intermodal logistics.

Union Pacific has been an innovator since it first began operations, and it has created many different technologies that have changed the logistical world. For example, they were one of the first companies to add GPS capabilities to their engines, so they know the location of an engine and its' cargo at any given time. Author Greenburg continues, "Chief Executive James Young has spent the past year revving up a GPS refit of his company's 6,000 locomotives at a cost of $60,000 apiece. Concurrently, the company is beefing up signal capacity along 32,000 miles of track as part of a $1.4 billion total outlay" (Greenburg, 2009). They are also working on reducing engine emissions while improving fuel economy, innovations that will influence the entire logistics industry.

When they build new intermodal terminals, they employ technologies that are advanced and allow for faster loading and unloading, including GPS technologies here, too. Another author notes, "Four cranes guided by Global Positioning System technology that allow for more efficient and safer lifting of trailers and containers on and off the railcars. Introduced for the first time at a Union Pacific intermodal yard, the satellite-guided technology also allows for safer operation of dual cranes on parallel tracks" (Arbona, 2005). This will also help speed up deliveries for customers, while making the terminal far more efficient. They have developed technologies at these terminals that allow trucks to load intermodal containers in as little as 30 seconds. Regular terminals can take up to four minutes to load trucks, which leads to far fewer trucks being loaded and sent off in a day.

Union Pacific has created innovations throughout its history that have had great influence on rail logistics, as well. One example is improved technology, specifically communications, which have allowed trains to carry more cars while reducing the number of crewmembers necessary to run the trains. This has led to reduced costs and more efficiency. UP is the second largest communications company in the country, employing…

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