Medical Supplies Get 'Fast Pass' for Union Pacific Trains

A double-stack intermodal train moves through a crossing in Northern California.

May 12, 2020 - Nearly every person admitted to the hospital receives an IV bag, and they’re in high demand at blood banks and ambulatory services. But before they get to medical facilities, IV bags often move by rail in intermodal containers, and, right now, Union Pacific is giving them and other medical supplies priority status. Like a fast pass at theme parks, it means these products move to the front of the line, or in this case the train, to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Understanding the need to move these supplies as quickly and efficiently as possible, Union Pacific’s Commercial, Premium Ops and Customer Care and Support teams updated their code system, attaching a priority label to roughly 10 medical shippers. Prior to the pandemic, this code was typically associated with mail and parcel delivery customers.

“Everything on our system moves based on codes,” said Union Pacific's Steve Gallaher, general director-Premium Sales. “The priority code ensures the container gets into the ramp without a reservation, is added to the train first, and that the train is among the fastest moving across UP’s system. Upon arrival at the intermodal terminal, it’s offloaded first and readied for pick up.”

This expedited service is nearly as fast as truck, providing customers a cost-effective option to move larger quantities. It gives MODE Transportation, a leading multimodal logistics provider with more than $2 billion of annual revenue, the supply chain solution it needs to efficiently move B Braun’s freight. B Braun makes the IV bags the country needs right now, shipping them out of Los Angeles to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Memphis, among other cities.

“Union Pacific’s ability to convert B Braun to an expedited shipper allowed us to provide an intermodal solution that otherwise would have moved by truck over the highway,” said Adam Rodery, vice president-Intermodal and Rail, MODE Transportation. “This allows MODE to make last-minute reservations for their intermodal shipments with confidence.”

To date, there have been no “mis-outs,” meaning the containers are getting into the gate at intermodal terminals and onto the train without delay and as promised. Gallaher credits Union Pacific’s Marketing and Sales team with finding a solution that allows the railroad and its customers to be agile.

“Union Pacific has been and still is an integral part of keeping medical supplies flowing throughout B Braun’s supply chain,” Rodery said. “We’re appreciative of the railroad’s efforts.”