CPR Uses Vin Numbers To Boost Auto Shipment Efficiency

TORONTO, Ontario – Canadian Pacific Railway is nearing completion of a $4.5-million, multi-year program to harmonize railway shipments of motor vehicles with manufacturers’ and dealers’ computerized inventory systems through the use of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that appears beneath the windshield of every new car and light truck.

Once fully operational by mid-year, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) VIN program will make it possible for customers to follow the progress of not only railway freight cars but also the individual automobiles and light trucks in them as they make their way from assembly plants to showrooms via the railway’s busiest distribution compounds at Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Regina and Minneapolis.

“Automotive producers are aggressively looking for ways to decrease plant-to-dealer delivery times,” said Lawre Allen, Vice-President, Intermodal and Automotive. “In response, CPR is providing them with automated, real-time data on what is happening not only to the rail cars carrying their shipments but also each individual vehicle whenever and wherever it is in our care.”

A software application called AutoTrack, supplied by Optimization Alternatives Limited, Inc. (OA) of Austin, Tex., supports management of all aspects of automotive compound operations from unloading railcars to locating individual vehicles.

Linked by wireless radio frequency (RF) technology to CPR databases and the computerized inventory-control systems at each of the compounds, hand-held scanners allow instantaneous recognition of individual vehicles as they enter or leave high-security, multi-level freight cars before or after the rail haul between major cities. Specialized trucks complete the journey to the showroom.

The CPR motor vehicle distribution compound in Toronto is the railway’s major southern Ontario distribution point for new vehicles and the first to use the new system. There, RF data transmission has replaced paperwork as employees of contract-operator L. Hansen’s Forwarding receive and dispatch the purpose-built, fully enclosed motor vehicle carriers used in trains that criss-cross the continent every day.

“The major justification for our investment in this system is that our customers will experience enhanced service at our terminals with faster and more detailed information availability,” said Mr. Allen. “VIN-based tracing and query capabilities of the new system will, by this summer, put our level of customer service at the front of the line.”

CPR provides service to all major motor vehicle manufacturers in North America, and last year moved 1.8 million new cars and light trucks to market. DaimlerChrysler Corp. has already recognized superior CPR service three years in a row with its Gold Award for quality in delivering parts and finished vehicles.

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