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Nov.16, 2015

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24 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE NOVEMBER 16.2015 INTERMODAL MARKET REPORT SPECIAL REPORT I WAS SADDE N E D several weeks ago to hear the news of the major restructuring and downsizing of Norfolk Southern's Triple Crown Services, the sole remaining North American operator of the RoadRailer tech- nolog y. I can't claim to b e obje c t ive on the mat ter, because my involvement with RoadRailer spans the bulk of my 30 -plus years in the business and I was there at the beginning. Full disclo- sure: I was a believer then and I still am. But my purpose here isn't to question NS's decision, which I'm sure was not easy. Rather, I want to acknowledge the many individuals I've met and worked with during the RoadRailer journey, members of the railroad fraternity who lent their time, effort and career capital to trying to cre- ate something new and unique that broke all the rules. In doing so, I hope to draw some parallels with the situation of today and offer some concerns. Some of those names will be familiar only to older readers, while others have gone on to senior posi- tions elsewhere in the business: ● BOB REEBIE, father of the Road- Railer and a brilliant iconoclast who rubbed a lot of his contemporaries the wrong way but had a habit of being right on the big issues. ● WAYNE HOFFMAN, then chair- man of Tiger International, who gave what was then called the Bi- Modal Corp. its initial funding. ● CRAIG DUCHOSSOIS, chairman of Thrall Car, who rescued Road- Railer in the mid-1980s. ● B I LL G RE E NWOOD and B I LL DEWITT of Burlington Northern, who provided critical support dur- ing the transition. ● ED KREYLING, NORM HELLER and RALPH FOSTER of NS, who brought a radical technology to the least likely and most conservative of the Class I railroads to take on the challenge and created Triple Crown. ● TOM FINKBINER, who as NS's vice president of intermodal helped get the business off the ground, with the help of DAN CUSHMAN, MATT ROSE and TIM MINNICH in the Triple Crown organization, and later, JIM NEWTON and his able team in Fort Wayne. ● JERRY EHRLICH, president of Wabash National, who acquired the technology from Thrall and helped bring it to full fl ower, along with the able technical support of folks like KEN COMBS and FRED MACDONALD. These individuals and many oth- ers, far too many to mention in this space, all played key roles. To those who have been omitted, please accept my apology. It doesn't mean your contribution wasn't appreciated. The mystery, if there is one, is why these folks stuck their collective necks out? Why did all these individu- als take the risk of trying something radically new, when the safe and prudent course from a personal and career standpoint was to stick to business as usual? It's not that the rail industry was a hotbed of inno- vation back in those days. The indus- try in those days was notoriously unforgiving of failure, and those guilty of the crime usually paid dearly. This is a question worth asking because the need for innovation is even greater today, and the environ- ment perhaps less hospitable than it was then. Ironically, as the railroads have improved their performance and concentrated their volume on a decreasing network of high-density mainlines, the tolerance and room for variation has declined. Similarly, all the old yards and facilities have been repurposed or excised, so new initiatives often ›› LAND LINES Lawrence J. Gross SALUTING THE RAIL INNOVATORS THE INDUSTRY IN THOSE DAYS WAS NOTORIOUSLY UNFORGIVING OF FAILURE, AND THOSE GUILTY OF THE CRIME USUALLY PAID DEARLY.

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