All about shipping: Why the heck is the rail car going *that* way?

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Vehicle Shipping and Really Didn't Want to Know After Reading All This

So your truck is built and you are now in what is known as "The Shipping System" (or "KZ status"). What happens next?

I typically note a few specific statuses when you are in KZ:

  • Awaiting Shipment - Your truck is in a shipping lot sitting and doing nothing but waiting.
  • Staged for Shipment - Your truck has been pulled to be moved. This means it is about to move to another shipping yard or about to head on to a truck/train/boat to head to you.
  • Truck Shuttle - Your truck is being moved by truck from one yard to another, or in rare circumstances, between a yard and your dealer.
  • En Route - Your truck is on a truck/train/boat and is no longer in the direct hands of Chrysler but in the hands of the hauler/train/boat company. It is moving from the plant/storage area to your dealer.
  • At final rail destination... - Your truck has traveled by rail or boat and is waiting to be picked up by a local hauler to be delivered to your dealer.
  • On truck to dealer - Your truck has left the storage yard and is on a truck to your dealer. Sometimes delivery is same day, sometimes it takes a few days depending on how many stops the truck made.
  • Delivered - Obvious :) (However in some rare occasions, a "paper" delivery occurs where someone marks off the wrong VIN either accidentally or deliberately). At this point your dealer should have the truck. They will need time to prep the vehicle and get it ready to deliver to you.

How and Why Things Ship The Way They Do

This refers to the Warren Truck Plant only as Mexico rather simple. Is the train heading to the right place or intermediate destination? Yes? Put it on."*

Ok. Let's get into the meat of the matter: Why do some people get trucks faster than others? It's complicated and I don't have all the answers but based on what I've heard and seen, here's my interpretation. If I get more data, I'll update this to incorporate it.

It depends on...

A. Where your truck is in the shipping lot.
B. Where the lot is in relation to C and D.
C. Is there a train going from that lot to your destination (or an interim point such as Chicago or Kansas City)?
D. Is there a truck going from the local lot to another lot (A) where there is expected to be a train going to your destination (or an interim point such as Chicago or Kansas City).
E. What's the dwell time of the order.

Let's go through them...

A. Trucks are packed into the shipping lots. Sometimes if C or D isn't available within a few hours or days, it gets parked and other trucks may get parked in front of it. That increases E.

B. The full output of the plant isn't stored locally. It is constantly being collected and shifted to other lots locally (Jefferson North, Java Yard, New Boston, Mack Yard, Connor Avenue, Toledo, Windsor, Flat Rock, etc). Trucks are coming off the line one every minute or so and where that truck needs to go needs to get determined quickly and constantly. There are a lot of people dedicated to answering that very question and executing it. Also, not all lots ship to all points. That leads to...

C. Train yards typically run in a general direction (E/W, N/S) and with an expected next destination. Trucks running E/W run from Toledo, Trucks running North/South leave from Jefferson North, East Coast is New Boston, West Coast can be Mack or Warren, I haven't fully got the pattern down yet). That means if a train needs to go west, it will go to a yard where trains head west. If a truck needs to go to Texas, it will head to a yard where trains go south.

This can also explain why a truck heading for Dallas will arrive much quicker than a train heading for Houston. There are two different rail lines serving those cities from Warren, MI. Dallas bound trucks head through Chicago then south. Houston bound trucks go another route through Indiana and Arkansas before hitting Westfield. I know some of you guys are rail people and can answer this question much better than I can.

If a truck needs to be shipped to a local dealer (let's say MI, ON, Chicago, Indiana, Ohio or even places in West Virginia and Pennsylvania), it could go to any of the yards depending on when a local delivery truck is going to run. Typically the non-Michigan orders head to a yard south of the plant such as Flat Rock or Toledo. That leads to...

D. See C. This boils down to truck availability more than anything else. If there are a lot of trucks going to head east, the car fleet is going to get them over to the east bound yards while the west/south bounders pile up.

E. Dwell time. This is how long your truck has been sitting in one place. The company doesn't make money sitting on trucks. Period. If this number gets too high, it shows up on reports and things start to move on it. I don't know what the number is. But, if there isn't an C. or D available, it can get pushed back in the lot waiting to get "unburied". The lot workers know about these trucks and work to get them out the door and off to some other B, C, or D it can send it to.

Does this answer your question on why a truck has been sitting in shipping so long? Not directly. What it does show is the careful orchestration of what use to be called "Logistics" and is now called "Supply Chain Management". This is the plant->dealer portion of the chain. It is very much like UPS or FedEx in terms of how the operation works. However, these are not small packages that can be stuffed in the corner of a bin then put on a 727 freighter and shipped. They require special handling, special trucks, and special trains. And if everyone wants use of those trucks and trains, it gets ugly.

* On occasion, a truck is sent from the Saltillo plant to the border.
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