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Breaking the Mould

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A group of CP and Canadian Tire executives gather at the Calgary Intermodal Terminal, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first 60-foot container that’s making its maiden voyage in Alberta. Aimed at increasing efficiency and reducing transportation costs, the container is currently the only prototype in circulation and marks the second time these two iconic Canadian companies joined forces to innovate the retail supply chain.

“CP and Canadian Tire have been doing business together for nearly 90 years, and we couldn’t be happier to partner with them once again on another industry- rst innovation,” said Jonathan Wahba, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Intermodal and Grain. “The new 60- foot container is the most environmentally-friendly domestic intermodal container out there and is further evidence that we have found an innovative partner in Canadian Tire, one that shares our passion for customer service, sustainable transportation and safety.”

Canadian Tire has a long history of pushing the boundaries within the domestic intermodal industry, which for a long time favoured smaller 20- to 48-foot containers. This model didn’t lend itself well to high-volume, low-weight shippers like Canadian Tire, which moves in excess of 100,000 automotive, sports, leisure and home products every year to more than 500 stores in Canada. Traditionally, these shippers run out of container space before they exceed legal weight limits.

In 1994, Canadian Tire set out to t two more skids inside their containers, endeavouring to build the rst 53-foot container. At the time, their containers were serviced by another railroad and they were met with some resistance. They asked if CP had any interest in developing the 53-foot container with them. CP agreed and the rest is history.

Now, more than 20 years later, Canadian Tire and CP have once again partnered to revolutionize the industry with the 60-foot container. Compared to the 53-foot container, the additional seven feet equates to four additional pallet locations, resulting in a 13 percent cargo increase.

“Innovation is hard work. It's not easy, but we're excited and proud to put this concept forward.”

“We’re very excited to see the 60-foot container on the road and rails and believe that this innovation, with its cost, environmental and e ciency bene ts will be a game changer for the industry,” said Gary Fast, Canadian Tire’s Associate Vice-President, International Transportation.

Changing the Industry One Foot at a Time

CP and Canadian Tire executives watch as the 60-foot container pulls onto track 4 at Calgary Intermodal Terminal where a Canadian Tire chassis is waiting. For now, Canadian Tire will handle rst mile pickup and last mile delivery, while industry technology catches up. As more shippers invest in 60-foot technology, CP will review rst and last mile delivery and have our assets built to accommodate.

“The chassis constitutes the most substantial cost aside from the containers,” said Wahba. “However, like any piece of capital expenditure, the more automated the manufacturing the less expensive the product becomes.”

Just as with the 53-foot predecessor, it will take time for the industry to adopt the 60-foot container. Regulatory challenges are perhaps the most onerous hurdles to clear. It took two years to get the appropriate permits and approvals to introduce the rst 60-foot container, only permitted to travel on roads in Alberta and Ontario. Additionally, only trucks with day cabs, not the longer sleeper cabs, can haul the containers for rst mile pickup and last mile delivery to avoid exceeding the legal length limit on Canadian roads.

“The rate and pace of change is going to be determined by how quickly the communities, governments and regulatory agencies approve a 60-foot container,” said Wahba. “It’s not how CP and Canadian Tire configure it, it’s how quickly the regulatory agencies adapt to a new configuration.”

Regulatory challenges aside, both companies are excited about the future of 60-foot containers and remain confident that this is the next evolution for domestic intermodal shipments, just like the 53-foot containers they introduced to the market two decades ago.

“If you think back to 1994 when the industry started to move to 53s, it was a long, slow process because obviously the capital expenditure for shippers and railroads was very significant,” said Wahba. “Innovation is hard work,” Fast adds. “But we’re excited and proud to put this concept forward.”

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