Proximity to Rail Service to Play a Bigger Role in Industrial Site Selection

As rail service has become faster, industrial developers are increasingly considering rail access in site selection.

A growing truck driver shortage, along with improved efficiency of U.S. rail operations, has more shippers considering rail transportation as a viable alternative to long-haul trucking. As a result, some developers are placing new industrial development projects adjacent to rail access sites.

Industrial developers and investors are considering the advantages of rail access when choosing locations for new projects, says Tray Anderson, who heads the logistics and industrial services platform in the Americas for real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. While rail access doesn’t drive location decisions, it has become a risk mitigation strategy, offering an alternative to trucking if the driver shortage escalates.

Rail’s efficiency, safety, cost savings and superior delivery windows are widely recognized, says Reagan Shanley, executive vice president of industrial development at Denver-based The Broe Group and its affiliate OmniTRAX, a railroad developer/operator that connects businesses to class I railroads nationally. A 2018 American Trucking Association’s study found that moving products by rail was 45 percent less expensive per ton than shipping by trucks. The exceptions, according to Anderson, include non-competitive destinations only served by one rail line and seasonal shipments of agricultural products, when pricing escalates.

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