Today, we’re going to tackle the term “TOFC,” which stands for Trailer On Flat Car. You may have heard it referred to as “piggyback” in the past.
So, what exactly is TOFC? In a nutshell, it’s a method of transporting goods in a semi-trailer on a train over long distances, then by truck to the final destination. The trailers are loaded onto the rail cars at one location and then transported to another location. There they are removed from the rail cars and hooked up to a truck for delivery.
TOFC was first introduced in the 1950s as a way to increase efficiency and reduce costs for transportation companies. Trains do a great job of moving freight long distances. It saves on fuel and is less expensive. By using trailers, there is the efficiency of trains, with the flexibility of trucks.
Issues with TOFC
So, why isn’t everyone using TOFC? Well, there are some downsides to this mode of transportation. For one thing, it can be difficult to find rail terminals that have the equipment and staff needed to load and unload trailers from the flatcars. And for another, the trailers can be damaged during transit, which can cause delays and added costs. Rail infrastructure also limits service areas.
Another issue is that not all goods are suited for TOFC. The trailers used in this mode of transportation are typically 53 feet long, which means that they can’t be used to transport larger items like construction equipment or oversized loads. And because the trailers are placed on flatbed rail cars, they are not protected from the elements, which means that goods that are sensitive to temperature or weather changes might not be suitable for TOFC. With that said, reefer freight often moves TOFC.
Despite challenges, TOFC is popular for long-haul shipments. According to the Association of American Railroads, in 2019, TOFC accounted for about 40% of all intermodal rail traffic in the United States.
The Future of Trailer on Flat Car
So, what does the future hold for TOFC? With advancements in technology and the continued growth of the intermodal industry, it’s likely that this mode of transportation will continue to evolve and grow in popularity. Trucking is faced with volatile fuel costs and regulatory issues, so TOFC will make sense for many shippers.
Although TOFC is not be the best solution for every shipment, it’s a valuable mode of transportation.