TTX Company History
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Telephone: (312) 853-3223
Fax: (312) 984-3790
Incorporated:1955 as Trailer Train
Sales:$918 million (2002)
NAIC:532411 Commercial Air, Rail, and Water Transportation Equipment Rental and Leasing
Our goal is to supply well-maintained equipment wherever needed at the lowest cost possible, while permitting financing of equipment on reasonable terms. To accomplish this goal we must size our fleet in a prudent manner, balancing new equipment acquisitions with innovative modifications and upgrades to the existing fleet.
- Trailer Train Company is incorporated.
- The company acquires its first 89-foot flatcars.
- By now, 41 railroads, including virtually every major line in the United States, has become a company stockholder.
- Hamburg Industries is acquired; American Rail Box Car Company is incorporated as a subsidiary.
- Railgon Company is formed.
- The first Field Maintenance Operation (FMO) is established.
- The company purchases its first 320 double-stack cars.
- Trailer Train Company officially changes it name to TTX Company.
- TTX accepts $600 million in flatcar deliveries--a company record.
TTX Company, which is privately owned by the six leading railroads in the United States and Canada, manages a fleet of over 127,000 railcars. The company's three types of railcars--intermodal, autorack, and general use--are utilized by the automobile, steel, lumber, agricultural, and construction industries. The U.S. military is also a TTX customer. TTX railcars are serviced by three maintenance divisions in Florida, California, and South Carolina. Thirty-one Field Maintenance Operations (FMOs) also provide inspection and repair services onsite.
While "piggy-back" transportation of horse-drawn wagons, and later highway trailers, on railroad flatcars was performed sporadically by individual railroads as early as the 1850s, the concept became popular with the shipping public only after the Korean War. However, the growth of piggyback, or intermodal, transport was limited by the absence of standards for flatcar design, particularly trailer tie-down devices, and the uncoordinated control of flatcars by the individual railroads, which resulted in low utilization.
TTX was formed to satisfy the increasing demand from railroads and their customers for a fleet of standardized intermodal flatcars under unified control at the lowest possible cost. Efficient utilization of intermodal flatcars was achieved through the pooling of these cars under TTX management. Unlike cars owned by the individual railroads, TTX cars did not have to be returned empty to the owning railroad after they were unloaded by another railroad. Instead, the cars could be reloaded and transported to any other destination where they could be reloaded again. If no loads were immediately available, TTX directed the movement of the empty cars to the closest location where loads are waiting. TTX's efficiencies and economies of operation were illustrated by the fact that, while TTX owned 8 percent of the U.S. railroad car fleet in the early 1990s, its cars accounted for 24 percent of all the car miles traveled in the United States. Since TTX cars were used more intensively and efficiently than railroad-owned cars, TTX could supply them at a lower cost per load.
The company was incorporated as Trailer Train Company in Delaware on November 9, 1955. Its initial railroad stockholders were the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Norfolk & Western Railway. TTX began operations on March 17, 1956 with a fleet of 500 75-foot flatcars. As the length of the standard highway trailer increased to 40 feet during the fifties, TTX introduced 85-foot and 87-foot flatcars capable of carrying two such trailers. TTX acquired its first 89-foot flatcars in 1961, and cars of this length became the industry standard for the next two decades. Some of these cars had low decks permitting piggyback operations over the older Eastern railroads, which were constrained by tighter clearances than their Western counterparts. By 1964, 41 railroads, including virtually every major line in the United States, had become a TTX stockholder. (By 2003, the number of major railroads in the United States and Canada had been reduced to six as a result of industry consolidation and merger activity.)
Railroads initially used chains, blocks, and jacks to attach trailers to flatcars, but this method was time-consuming and labor-intensive. A TTX employee introduced the concept of a collapsible hitch which could be raised and lowered quickly and efficiently by one worker using a power winch. This innovation, which both cut costs and improved ride quality, was subsequently produced by American Car and Foundry and quickly became the industry standard. An improved hitch, powered by the tractor used to load and unload the trailer, was introduced in 1966.
TTX began supplying 89-foot cars for motor vehicle movement in 1962. Prior to World War II, the railroad industry had dominated motor vehicle transportation, but as highways improved, the railroads' share of this market dropped to 10 percent by 1959. To regain this traffic, the railroads and their suppliers designed bi-level and tri-level racks carrying eight to twelve vehicles, each of which could be attached to the standard 85-foot and 89-foot flatcars operated by TTX. If traffic patterns changed, the racks could be detached and the cars returned to piggyback service. This innovation, which cut costs and improved the condition of the vehicles at their destination, proved popular with the manufacturers. By the 1980s, the railroad industry had recaptured nearly 60 percent of the vehicle transportation market, a position it maintained into the 1990s. In 1992 TTX continued to supply thousands of 89-foot flatcars for this service.
During the mid-1960s, TTX began to supply specialized flatcars designed for transportation of lumber, machinery, agricultural equipment, vehicle frames, and pipe to the railroad industry.
To provide reliable service at the lowest overall cost, TTX maintained its car fleet to high standards. In 1991 for example, TTX achieved 92 percent utilization of its intermodal fleet and 97 percent utilization of its flatcar fleet assigned to motor vehicle service. At first maintenance was performed by the individual railroads and independent car shops. However, as its fleet grew and aged, TTX determined that the most cost-effective approach would be to operate its own repair shops. TTX acquired its first shop on February 21, 1974, when it consummated its purchase of Hamburg Industries, operator of a repair facility at Hamburg, South Carolina. TTX subsequently constructed or acquired repair shops at Mira Loma, California, Jacksonville, Florida, and Drayton Plains, Michigan. In 1984, TTX established its first Field Maintenance Operation (FMO)--an FMO employs mobile repair vehicles to perform running maintenance on TTX cars when necessary, avoiding unproductive trips to repair shops. TTX operated 38 FMOs by the early 1990s.
On January 14, 1974, the American Rail Box Car Company, or Railbox, was incorporated as a subsidiary of TTX. At that time, high-quality boxcars were in short supply. The mission of Railbox was to establish a pool of standardized, high-quality 50-foot boxcars that, like TTX's flatcars, could be freely reloaded to any destination, thus optimizing utilization and efficiency. Railbox's car ownership peaked at 24,966 in 1981 and subsequently was reduced to 13,174 as of December 31, 1991, due to oversupply and declining demand for that type of equipment.
Another TTX subsidiary, Railgon Company, was incorporated on May 24, 1979. Railgon acquired a fleet of standardized, high-quality gondola cars which, like Railbox cars, were pooled and could be freely reloaded for optimal efficiency.
Changes in the dimensions of highway trailers and the introduction of intermodal containers led to changes in TTX's flatcar fleet. TTX acquired the first "all purpose" 89-foot flatcars equipped to carry either trailers or containers in 1966. By the early 1980s, highway operation of 45-foot trailers had become legal, and TTX modified thousands of its 89-foot flatcars to carry two trailers of this length. The introduction of 48-foot, and later 53-foot, highway trailers, however, necessitated the acquisition of new types of rail cars. Prominent among these was the five-unit articulated Spine car design, added to the TTX fleet in container-only configuration starting in 1986 and in all-purpose (trailer or container loading) configuration starting in 1989. These cars could carry trailers or containers up to 53 feet in length.
During the 1980s, ocean carriers began acquiring vessels too large to fit through the Panama Canal for their trans-Pacific trade. To reach markets on the East Coast and interior points, these carriers began moving large quantities of containers across the United States by rail on double-stacked, five-unit well cars. TTX acquired its first 320 double-stack cars in 1985. By 1991, double-stack cars made up over one-third of TTX's intermodal capacity, and 74 percent of the intermodal cars were equipped to carry containers. TTX's fleet at the time included single-unit and three-unit drawbar-connected cars with 125-ton trucks, capable of carrying two stacked 48-foot containers, as well as the five-unit design.
Updating the intermodal fleet to satisfy the demands of railroad customers required substantial investment. From 1987 through 1991 TTX acquired over $1 billion worth of new equipment. In 1991 TTX acquired 21 heavy-duty, depressed-center flatcars for transportation of heavy equipment, including transformers and pressure vessels.
During the early 1990s, TTX derived its revenues from its railroad owners in the form of charges for the use of its cars. These charges, which were set by TTX's Board of Directors, included two components: time and mileage. TTX charged no more for use of its cars than was absolutely necessary to recover the cost of owning the cars and maintaining them to high standards. In 1991, TTX's revenue was $621 million.
TTX's pooling operations were subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in the early 1990s but eventually fell under authority of the Department of Transportation's Surface Transportation Board. The TTX and Railbox pools were approved by the ICC in 1974, while the Railgon pool was approved by the ICC in 1980. The flatcar pooling agreement among TTX and its participating railroads that was approved by the ICC had a 15-year term. In 1989, the ICC re-authorized this pool for an additional five-year period.
Trailer Train Company changed its name to TTX Company on July 1, 1991, to better reflect the broadened scope of its activities. During that year, TTX also commenced a major quality improvement effort, which included vendor evaluations and internal review of maintenance facilities.
Mid-1990s and Beyond
TTX entered the mid-to-late 1990s on solid ground due in part to an antitrust exemption it enjoyed in intermodal shipping. According to a 2003 Crain's Chicago Business article, the exemption was granted so that small rail lines could afford intermodal equipment. Industry consolidation during the 1990s, however, did away with smaller rail lines and left just six major companies in the United States and Canada. During this time period, intermodal shipping was the fastest-growing segment of the rail transport industry. From 1992 to 2002, intermodal shipping grew from 10 percent of all railroad revenues to 21 percent. With renewal of the exemption due in 2004, speculation regarding TTX's monopolistic position began to arise. The aforementioned Crain's Chicago Business article reported, "leasing firms would like to get a crack at the intermodal business TTX controls. But leasing companies are worried about offending their railroad customers and thus haven't come out against renewal of the antitrust exemption--yet."
Another trend that bode well for TTX was the continuing tendency for railroads to lease railcars instead of owning or buying them outright. In 1990, 37 percent of the 1.2 million cars in service were owned by leasing companies like TTX. By 2001, that number had grown to 52 percent.
Success followed TTX into the new millennium as railroad traffic reached record levels. The company's intermodal fleet continued to experience high demand, especially in late 2003 and early 2004. Higher fuel costs and insurance premiums plagued the motor carrier industry, and shippers turned to rail as a more affordable option.
In response to higher demand, TTX continued to focus on quality and maintenance, as well as ordering new equipment. In 2004, the company expected to receive $600 million in flatcar deliveries--a company record. TTX also began to revamp its fleet. According to a July 2004 company press release, the company was working to extend the length of the platform on five-unit spine cars from 48-feet to 53-feet. It also redesigned its tri-level autorack cars to accommodate a bi-level rack, which was used to transport sports utility vehicles. It also planned to modify its 89-foot cars, allowing them to carry new Class 8 highway tractors and recreational vehicles.
Favorable market conditions and its ability to adapt to changing industry demands left TTX in an enviable position among its competitors. By focusing on providing low-cost and well-maintained equipment to its customers, TTX appeared to be on track for success in the future.
Principal Competitors: GATX Corporation; The Greenbrier Companies Inc.; Pacer International Inc.
- "Freight Car Market Takes an Upturn," Railway Age, December 1, 2002.
- "How TTX Tracks Quality," Railway Age, April 1992.
- "Ray Burton: Looking Back and Looking Ahead," Railway Age, January 1, 1993.
- Tita, Bob, "Fed Fuel Keeps TTX Chugging," Crain's Chicago Business, November 17, 2003, p. 4.
- "TTX Fleet Changes to Meet Intermodal Demands," Journal of Commerce, July 26, 2004.
- Welty, Gus, "It's Time for Up-Sizing," Railway Age, December 1, 1993.
- "Where Intermodal Is Headed: A TT View," Railway Age, March 1990.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 66. St. James Press, 2004.