Railroad Conducts Tracking Test with Security Byproduct

Jun. 7--"The focus is on giving the private sector a more efficient and cheaper way to track and move shipments. And a byproduct of all that is security."

Chris Gutierrez, president of KC Smartport

Technology being developed to track freight shipments between Kansas City and Mexico or Kansas City and the West Coast is getting its trial run by railroad.

KC Smartport and several partners are working to create a more efficient and reliable tracking system for moving freight in efforts to make Kansas City a more attractive trade hub.

In late May, Kansas City Southern began hauling 25 cars for Bartlett Grain to Monterrey, Mexico, as part of the rail testing. The shipment crossed the border Sunday, and it was expected to arrive in Monterrey possibly Tuesday, according to Chris Gutierrez, president of KC Smartport.

KC Smartport, the economic development group dedicated to promoting international trade in the region, recently completed its round of testing in tracking truck shipments through the north-south NAFTA corridor.

"We want to show that the same devices that work on trucks and trailers can also work on rail and other modes," Gutierrez said. "Kansas City is the only city in the nation that is incorporating different technologies. This is significant for the many companies that use the corridor."

KC Smartport has received nearly $6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation 's Intelligent Transportation Systems program to develop the technology. Gutierrez said the aim is to allow all parties involved in moving the freight to track the shipment regardless of what particular technology they employ. KC Smartport will have a single data center that all companies will be able to use.

"The focus is on giving the private sector a more efficient and cheaper way to track and move shipments," Gutierrez said. "And a byproduct of all that is security."

The technology also will be able to track whether the cargo has been tampered with, Gutierrez said. That will allow it to conform to guidelines set by the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In one of the previous test shipments by truck, a shipment that normally takes nearly two weeks to deliver to Guadalajara, Mexico, was done in three days using the technology.

"When the broker has the paperwork ahead of time and knows what the freight is and that it's secure, it speeds the time it takes to cross the border," said David Burdick, president of Priority Logistics, a third-party logistics firm working with KC Smartport.

Gutierrez added that companies can gain productivity by having a more accurate work schedule by knowing when shipments arrive.

"It cleared customs smoothly, and there haven't been any glitches," he said.

Another round of testing is expected to begin later this summer, Gutierrez said.

(Kansas City Star (MO) (KRT) -- 06/08/06)