Where do I look to find information on rail cargo rates and services?
February 16, 2008 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Where to start looking for rail cargo rates? I need to move about a shipping container worth of stuff from one side of the USA to the other. (DC to Fan Francisco). I have been told several times that rail is the cheapest, but I can't find much information about how to do it.
posted by Nothing to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What you're looking for is a "freight broker" -- they will handle the details. You can't really easily deal with freight companies yourself ... it's a highly technical field with a lot of weird legal and regulatory constraints and artifacts.

My caution to you: READ THE FINE PRINT. All of it. Focus on anything that limits the carrier's liability. Make sure you know who is responsible for the cargo at all times, and that the carrier's liability is in effect and not limited artificially. Don't ship it if you're not comfortable, don't sign anything you haven't read both sides of, and don't accept any assurances that something is "normal" for the industry.
posted by SpecialK at 4:29 PM on February 16, 2008

(Note: I have a degree in Logistics Management.)
posted by SpecialK at 4:29 PM on February 16, 2008

I used a crate from Public Storage to move across country. The quoted price included dropping the crate off for me to pack, picking it up, moving it across the country and storing it at the new location and finally delivering it to my address when I was ready for it. If you ship by rail, you might have to pay separately for the moving and storage, rental of a fork lift, etc. Those are all things you want to know before choosing a shipping method because the storage alone might end up eating up whatever savings the actual cost of transportation is if you have to store or move it yourself.
posted by 45moore45 at 4:42 PM on February 16, 2008

SpecialK has it. You need a freight broker. One of the bigger names is UPS, but that can be both good and bad. Since you're going from coast to coast, look online in both cities (SF, especially - big port there) for brokers and start calling!

I worked with a lot of these companies in Charleston, SC and they handle this stuff all the time, especially for military family moves. One caveat which falls in to what SpecialK was talking about, sometimes companies aren't licensed to haul "household goods," if that's relevant to your shipment.

Though, after thinking about it, have you checked truckload rates? Try Schneider and J.B. Hunt for starters. I'm thinking it might wind up a wash in terms of transit time/price, etc.
posted by cdmwebs at 4:50 PM on February 16, 2008

PODS is another option ( Portable on demand storage ) ... it's another end to end solution. Drop off a container, you fill , they ship, you unload.
posted by petethered at 5:04 PM on February 16, 2008

I don't know if they still do it this way, but about 5 yrs ago when moving from SF to Pittsburgh PA, I used Amtrak quite cheaply. You drop off and pick up at an Amtrak station, the stuff gets loaded on a pallet and shipped, taking about a week. If you call Amtrak they can give details.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:03 PM on February 16, 2008

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