A new over-the-road vehicle designed to carry both passengers and express freight is being developed by an affiliated company with Neoplan USA.
Tentatively titled the Intermodal Coach (patent pending), the 45 foot vehicle would carry roughly 30 passengers in scheduled route service, with the remaining space used to carry a 20-foot intermodal truck/rail container or an air cargo container.
According to Neoplan Vice President Coach James Gaspard, the concept would help motorcoach operators capture a second stream of revenue by making them serious players in the freight hauling business. Heretofore, bus companies have been limited to carrying express packages, which is only a fraction of the total multi-trillion-dollar U.S. freight market. Neoplan expects to have a prototype available for industry feedback by this summer.
However, early feedback has already been enthusiastic. "Several of our members have been very intrigued by the proposed concept," said Gale Ellsworth, executive director of Trailways. "They are always looking for additional revenue streams, so if the prototype shows the new coach can be operated feasibly our members will be very excited."
"Amtrak is also looking to capture traditional freight revenue," said Gil Carmichael, chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council created a few years ago by Congress to monitor the railroad’s progress toward self-sufficiency. "It is studying how a 747 belly [air cargo] container can be transferred to a railcar with quick-opening sides."
It’s also looking to see how it can either carry the intermodal container on trains or ways in which it can partner with bus companies with this capability in their fleets. The Holy Grail is for a seamless intermodal service that can simultaneously accommodate freight and passengers, Carmichael said.