OVER the past four years, Infinity Transportation Logistics has built steady success as a provider of expedited refrigerated door-to-door intermodal service. It is an operation that continues to grow and evolve.
Using 53-ft domestic refrigerated containers, the intermodal operator serves customers to/from Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest and destinations in the Midwest, East Coast, and Texas. Cargoes include fresh produce, frozen food, and dry goods.
By 2019, the operator had 300 refrigerated containers in service with another 100 on order from CIMC Intermodal Equipment. The latest batch of domestic containers employ a new slimline refrigeration unit from Thermo King that will boost cargo capacity from 14 rows of double-stacked pallets to 15 rows.
“We’ve seen steady growth since launching this operation in 2014, and a 1,000 container fleet is well within reach,” says Steve Lawson, chief commercial officer of Infinity Transportation Logistics. “Through the operating area we’ve chosen we have year-round freight, and we are hauling products that we understand very well. We offer a service that is very competitive with trucks.
“Our average length of haul is 2,600 miles door-to-door, and we keep our containers busy. We are achieving roughly 2.5 revenue moves per container, per month. Our operations team has the next load scheduled within 24 hours of the current load being delivered. We do all of that with state-of-the-art technology, great railroad connections, and excellent drayage carrier partnerships.”
Infinity Transportation Logistics is part of a larger corporation that controls a large range of rail assets, including railcars, containers, dry freight vans, and chassis. Assets include more than 20,000 railcars of all types that are offered for lease.
“We saw an opportunity four years ago to establish Infinity Transportation Logistics as an asset-based transportation operation,” says Paul Goss, president of Infinity Transportation Logistics. “It is a rail intermodal operation run in a contract transportation environment. Ninety-eight percent of our freight is under contract.
“We concentrated our focus on the Pacific Northwest, an area that we were comfortable with. The idea developed quickly and easily, but it took us about a year to get up and running. It also took another year to two years to gain traction in the market. We now believe we have built a market that we can develop for the long-term.”
While the home office is in Atlanta, Georgia, operations are directed from offices in Kansas City, Missouri. A 12-person staff in the Kansas City office includes operations specialists focused on freight movement and mechanical specialists who make sure the equipment is operating properly.
Operations are facilitated by McLeod Software’s transportation management system. “We started using this system, with very minor modifications, when we launched Infinity Transportation Logistics,” Lawson says. “It covers accounting, order entry, dispatch, and operations. Computer capabilities include satellite tracking of containers and the ability to remotely adjust refrigeration unit settings.”
Lawson adds that he believes the software is robust enough to handle a billion-dollar company. “Without question, this system will be able to meet our needs as we scale up in coming years,” he says.
The Kansas City staff oversees a rail intermodal fleet that provides eastbound temperature-controlled door-to-door domestic intermodal service from Washington and Oregon to various midwestern and East Coast destinations/locations including: Illinois (greater Chicago and surrounding areas including western Michigan, southern Wisconsin, and northern Indiana); New York (Buffalo area, New York City and its boroughs); Pennsylvania (Chambersburg, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia areas); Maryland (greater Baltimore area); Massachusetts (Boston and Springfield areas); Georgia (greater Atlanta area); Florida (Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa Bay, and Miami areas); Texas (greater Dallas area; and the greater Toronto area of Canada.
Infinity Transportation Logistics’ expedited door-to-door domestic intermodal temperature-controlled service departs from/returns to intermodal ramps in Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington, six days per week. The intermodal carrier has a service radius of about 160 miles from/to intermodal ramps in Spokane, Portland, and Seattle, and can pick up/drop off product in many parts of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Dedicated drayage operators are used for pick up/drop off in all of the shipment origin and destination points. Drayage operators handle container washout after shipments are delivered.
“We use regional carriers in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest and local haulers on the East Coast,” Lawson says. “We have good relationships with these carriers, and we give them steady business. Many of these operators have been with us since we started, and they treat our loads as theirs.”
The intermodal carrier’s door-to-door transit times are now only four to five days to/from the Midwest, seven days to/from various destinations on the East Coast, and six days to Texas—nearly as fast as long-haul trucks.
“Our operation serves two-thirds of the US population without ever going near California,” Lawson says. “This is critical because we can avoid some of the California-related challenges, such as dealing with that state’s Air Resources Board.”
Because of improved transit times, ITL has been seeing increased interest and usage from fresh produce shippers (such as apples, potatoes, pears, and onions). Other cargoes include frozen foods (including frozen French fries, frozen fish, frozen vegetables, and frozen juice concentrate), and other refrigerated products eastbound from Washington and Oregon to the Midwest and the East Coast.
Additionally, ITL’s return westbound service brings frozen/refrigerated products (including frozen pizzas, frozen yogurt, frozen seafood, and frozen juice concentrate) and dry goods back from the Midwest and East Coast to Washington and Oregon. Westbound shipments from Texas include growing volumes of frozen vegetables from Mexico.
Being competitive in the markets served by Infinity Transportation Logistics means running the most reliable and efficient domestic refrigerated equipment in the industry. Infinity Transportation Logistics management worked closely with their key equipment suppliers—Hyundai, CIMC, and Thermo King—to help ensure that the refrigerated domestic containers were ideally matched to the operation.
The latest being added to the fleet are described as next-generation refrigerated domestic containers that will take performance and efficiency to a higher level. Lawson says the new CIMC refrigerated container excels in quality of construction and thermodynamic properties.
“This is a significant step forward in engineering with better materials and craftsmanship,” he says. “We believe we will see 20% to 30% better thermal efficiency, compared with a typical refrigerated trailer. We are projecting a 14-year lifespan for these containers.
Combined with the new slimline refrigeration unit, we will gain more cargo space, which will make us more competitive in the marketplace. We will begin phasing out the previous generation of containers in our fleet in favor of the new equipment.”
Basic specifications for domestic refrigerated containers in the fleet call for 3,478-cu-ft of interior space and a maximum payload of 53,400 pounds. Containers are insulated with polyurethane foam and have a duct-type aluminum floor. Bulkheads in the new containers were supplied by CIMC.
For refrigeration, Infinity Transportation Logistics selected the newly introduced Thermo King SLXi-DRC slimline unit that was designed specifically for domestic refrigerated container operations. With the slim-profile unit, a 53-ft domestic container can now accommodate 15 pallet rows, instead of the 14 pallets possible with previous refrigeration units.
Designed and built at the Thermo King plant in Ireland and launched in Europe in 2008 as the SLXi, the unit quickly gained popularity across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, according to Doug Moore, Thermo King business development manager, refrigerated rail applications.
The SLXi-DRC weighs 220 pounds less than comparable units and has a profile seven inches thinner than previous DRC models. The refrigeration unit has a flush-mount evaporator that reduces the risk of damage during loading and unloading.
Most notably, the SLXi-DRC uses R-452a refrigerant that offers a 45% lower environmental impact and lower operating costs. The R-452a is more efficient than the R0404A refrigerant currently used in US domestic refrigerated transportation market. Moore predicts that R-452a will become standard for the United States and Canada within five years.
TracKing telematics is standard on the SLXi-DRC for monitoring equipment on the go. A 40-watt solar panel keeps the refrigeration unit batter charged. The SLXi-DRC comes with a K486V diesel motor rated at 24.4 horsepower. A 105-gallon fuel tank is mounted below the refrigeration unit with the container frame.
Refrigeration unit maintenance and service is handled primarily by Thermo King Christensen (Omaha), Thermo King Northwest (Portland), and Illinois Auto Central (Chicago).
“We have had a long relationship with Thermo King, and we use a lot of their equipment,” Lawson says. “They have been handling our maintenance since we started this operation.”