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Rail car shortage affecting B.C. forest industry

B.C. forest companies say they can no longer get enough rail cars to move their products to market at a time when the U.S. housing market is going through a major recovery.


April 17, 2013
By The Vancouver Sun

U.S. housing starts topped one million in March on a seasonally adjusted rate, more than double the low point hit during the recession, prompting a run on rail cars that Canadian mills use to get their wood products to market. It’s not just lumber that’s being affected. Oriented strand board, plywood and even pulp inventories are building at the mills, forcing companies to turn to trucks – which are also in short supply.

“If you had a pickup truck, we would use it,” Bob Hayes, transportation vice-president at Canfor Corp. told The Vancouver Sun.

However, the rail car crunch is adding to costs, from additional trucking to causing ships to be delayed in port, he said.
“I think transportation and the lack thereof, is going to be the biggest challenge for B.C. forest products companies to get their product to market in 2013 and beyond. Usually economics will drive solutions, but right now, that solution is to constrain the industry,” Hayes said.

In an email statement, CN said since January, CN has been challenged by extremely cold weather in Western Canada, snowfall and several line disruptions.

“As a consequence, train velocity has declined, while terminal dwell times at classification yards have risen. These factors have adversely affected the productivity of the rail network, as well as service levels for all customers,” CN spokeswoman Emily Hamer said in the email.

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