controlling transport operation
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by Ashley Taylor, AMIRTE, AssocInstT
Freightliners given total monitorini
ORGANIZING a pool of available vehicles so that customers' delivery needs are met without wastage is, as anyone who has tried it knows, not so simple as might appear at first. The task of deploying Freightliner facilities in a similar manner is in some ways simpler and in others more corn plicated.
Road traffic operations form a major activity at a Freightliner terminal so that most of the normal problems are present but the trunk despatches are naturally governed by train capacity, a factor that provides both a target and a definite limitation. In these operations there is the particular problem that no "float" of containers is held at the terminal, the assumption being that so far as possible they should all be continuously productive and kept on the move throughout the national network.
This means that when the need for supplies of a particular design, over and above the number of that type advised as incoming from other terminals, becomes apparent a requisition must be made on Freightliner central control for the necessary extras to be forwarded immediately. So constant monitoring of container movements is essential for internal reasons as well as desirable from the customers' angle. How the system works was demonstrated to me by the manager of the recently extended Garston terminal, serving the busy Merseyside territory.
At Freightliner depot level now there is close liaison between sales and traffic staffs; in fact, before the instructions of a new customer even reach the traffic office the sales side has checked both consignor's and consignee's premises to ensure their suitability for the chosen size of container and its carrying unit. Where deemed desirable the traffic side may come into the picture to carry out a trial "pack" before the due date. If necessary, officials will check with the customer to ensure that the particular cargo is safe for travel by rail at 75 mph and capable of being stowed in a suitable manner.
Actual handling procedure .commences on what may be described as D-minus-1, the day before the actual movement is to take place. The customer should at that stage contact the terminal in order to book In his container and to have space reserved for it on the train. A Freightliner train consists of 6011 wagons, the loading of which can be made up of six 10ft, three 20ft, two 30ft containers or combination of these sizes. When booking takes place the traffic office places the container on the schedule and checks that the requisite type of box is available.
At about this time it is necessary to calculate the number of containers that will be available after the discharge of inward loads, plus the number of containers held c the terminal, and to relate these figures I the various orders for the following day departures. At 1500 hours the terminal w telex to the Freightliner central control London which receives similar informatic from every terminal. The requirements ( each will then be assessed and control w issue orders to the terminals to forwar whatever containers are necessary I correct any imbalance at any point.
The terminal has then to consicil whether the collection/delivery services al required to be provided or wheth( customers will handle their containers wit their own units or give instructions t independent hauliers. Supposing Freigh liners to be performing cartage at both end the road section will have to be advised an apart from Garston, the distant termin; must be informed of the container movement and Freightliner haulage needs. At the same time Garston terminal staff will themselves be receiving pre-advices from other terminals of loads that will require delivery the following day. The various orders are consolidated, wherever possible the vehicle duty combining each delivery with a collection to follow in the same neighbourhood. In this connection Construction and Use Regulations must be taken into account and care exercised that the semi-trailer unit is appropriate for both jobs.
Garston carries a fleet of 53 road vehicles, the programme for which is scheduled overnight. Normally the drivers will book on at 0700 hours or 0730 hours although there are also men allocated to special duties on a day-to-day basis. Notices of consigment are received by telex when a train leaves the sending terminal, these giving information regarding consignees, weights and any special times for deliveries. In making out in advance a container movement instruction the terminal traffic office works to this information. Thus the CMI, which is given to the driver as his authority to go to the crane area, specifies the container number, its location on the train and the consignee. The driver's duty is then to stop at the bay as marked as applicable to the container, which is then loaded on the semi-trailer by the crane staff.
Stowage advice The vehicle is checked out at the departure office and arrives at the consignee's premises where the driver will assist in unloading the container which in normal circumstances does not leave the trailer. Service is sold on the basis that the sender will load and the consignee unload, with the assistance of the driver who will give any necessary advice on stowage.
The driver's instructions will specify the next job which will ordinarily be a collection, using the container that has just been emptied. At this point the customer will have made out a consignment note in triplicate which will be signed by the driver who will bring back two copies together with the container for despatch.
On return to the terminal he hands them in, together with the CMI, as he passes the inward checkpoint. The relevant information must then be transferred to the charts that give minute-to-minute information regarding the loading position of the various trains.
The chart board is in effect a diagrammatic reproduction of the terminal with additional sections that indicate the situation of containers that are not on the site. From this can be seen the containers on the inward trains, on the outward trains, in store, set up on trailers in the vehicle park, with customers for loading or unloading, and where containers are being specially detained for other reasons.
The containers themselves are represented by markers, these varying in size according to the length and coloured to Indicate type, which have magnetic backs so that they adhere firmly to the charts. In each case the appropriate numbers are written on the container markers with Chinagraph When a container arrives from the customer the traffic clerk locates it in code on the train plan, showing the position by the specific container number, measured out according to how many 10ft modules it will occupy. The driver then proceeds with the inwards container and note to the crane area where the staff will interpret the instruction, placing the box in the correct position on the required train. At the window as he has re-entered the terminal the driver will probably have been given a further CMI for another load; this will enable him to collect another empty container.
After being dealt with in the crane area he will proceed to obtain the container, then to the outwards checkpoint, there handing in the consignment note for the collected goods. At the same time his CMI will be time-stamped for his next trip.
During the night as the notice of inwards consignments come in from the sending terminals, the.traffic clerks are able to carry out the necessary documentation with accurate advance knowledge of the containers, their numbers and positions on the train. With the aid of this information they are enabled to set up a representation of the train on the control board, the markers being moved to different parts of the board as the various operations take place. Markers are adjusted to show the departure of a unit for unloading, for example, as it leaves the outward check there being constant telephonic communication between checkpoint and traffic office.
It seems likely that in future there will be some radio link between traffic office and the crane area so that no traffic control decision will suffer from even the slightest time-lag. When containers come in their customer's markers are moved to the appropriate train spaces and only when the train has left is the particular marker removed from the board.
Records of the original reports on customers' premises, mentioned earlier, give particulars of any peculiarities or any special features of the loads. These are on permanent file in the traffic office and the clerk making out the CMI will have a quick reference file on hand so that it is possible to give instructions to the driver if it is desirable to take with him corner boards, strawpads, extra sheets, or other items that may be required to ensure that the work proceeds without any hitch.
Each terminal has a permitted period for which containers may stand for the purpose of loading or unloading on customers' premises and after which detention charges may be raised. Should there be serious delays which make it obvious that he will not be returning within the scheduled time, the driver of a Freightliner collection unit will contact the terminal so that his work can be re-programmed.
Normally, Freightliner containers do not leave the semi-trailer but where loading is likely to be a lengthy process arrangements can be made with the customer for the container to be left at the premises for perhaps a complete day, meanwhile the valuable semi-trailer unit can continue with other duties.
In the course of a five-day week Garston handles an average of 1200 loaded containers, received and forwarded, giving a total of some 2400 movements there during this period.
Freightliners Ltd carried its one-millionth loaded container last May. A spokesman for the organization said that while it took 3+ years to reach the half-million mark the second half-million had been carried in little more than 12 months.
Freightliners' first service was between London and Glasgow in 1965. The facilities expanded rapidly and now 23 terminals connected by 142 services on 61 rail routes serve the principal industrial and port areas. At present upwards of 10,000 containers pass between these points each week. The continuing growth of domestic business is expected to march in step with increasing overseas container traffic to and from the ports.
Earlier this year Freightliners Ltd decided to centralize and automate its revenue accounting. Two NCR500 computer systems were installed and their use will result in some changes to the system already described which necessitates operation by British Railways Board through about 20 accounting centres in the UK.
In the new system all these duties, such as automatic pricing of consignments, invoicing to customers, management information on terminals, customers and routes profitability, will be performed on the two magnetic ledger computers. The processing cycle will begin at the terminals with the receipt of a customer consignment note for each container. Expected to he about 2,500 a day initially, these notes may rise in total to 5.000 a day within two years.
Code numbers Endorsed with code numbers, these consignment notes will be received in batches each day at the centralized accounting offices in London. Data from them will be fed into the computers by punched paper tape. Invoices prepared by the two NCR500 machines will be sent to customers weekly, and reports showing revenue and sales information printed out weekly and monthly for executives at terminal, area and headquarters level.
The computers' operations are based on magnetic ledger cards containing information in normal type and on magnetic strips, thus providing the visible printed records to which Freightliner executives have been accustomed, together with computer-fast processing. Each configuration consists of a central processor of 800 words' storage capacity: an operator's control console and carriage printer; an automatic reader for the magnetic ledger cards; a paper tape punch and reader; and a strip paper tape reader.
A spokesman commented that management control would he helped in efficiency by the provision of information on revenue only a few days after the end of the weekly and monthly processing cycles.
NCR itself is using Freightliner facilities to transport some of its business equipment between the Dundee factories and the London distribution centre at Brent. Reductions in costs, transit times and packing (this latter item by up to 90 per cent) are some benefits claimed.