Wood logistics and rail transport share a long history, and DB Cargo Logistics is an experienced partner for both. Proven expertise in all things wood, digital and analogue innovations, and special equipment for handling wood products of any kind make DB Cargo Logistics an important wood logistics provider. In this article, we show what makes this DB Cargo subsidiary so important for the European wood industry.
Wood and green rail: a perfect combination
The idea of sustainability has been firmly rooted in forestry for a long time. In German, the concept was first mentioned in a forestry context as long ago as 1713. What was meant at the time was that no more wood should be taken from the forest than it could produce. So from its very nature, the sector is already familiar with the subject and correspondingly keen on environmentally sound wood logistics. This also means using a considerable portion of harvested wood locally, or at least regionally. Equally important, though, is the long-distance sourcing of raw materials for the wood-processing industries. This is where DB Cargo Logistics comes in, with its dense Europe-wide network for single-wagon and block train transport.
"As a raw material, for example in the construction industry, wood is becoming more and more important," says Clemens Pflästerer, Head of Sales and Operations Center Timber at DB Cargo Logistics. "Since it's climate-neutral and highly versatile, wood will remain a key raw material in the future. For us, that means keeping a close eye on the market and developing efficient solutions that meet our customers' needs. With specially tailored equipment for the timber sector and a wide range of services at loading points and timber ports, we can provide sustainable logistics for our customers."
DB Cargo Logistics has been working for many years with binderholz, a long-established family-owned company based in Austria's Zillertal valley and Europe's market leader for solid timber products. Sustainability takes centre stage at binderholz, which applies a zero-waste approach to production by using every last scrap of its raw materials.
Of course keeping the logistics as green as possible plays a major role in this context. binderholz has already implemented a range of logistics solutions in partnership with DB Cargo Logistics. Examples include transporting cross-laminated timber to France and Scandinavia in single-wagon transport, activating sidings in Wilhelmsglück and Burgbernheim, and implementing sustainable reloading solutions for traffic to and from the seaport of Brake.
Brake is an important port for handling various types of bulk cargo. Among other things, it imports pulp mainly from South America and exports square-sawn timber – in the case of binderholz, to the United States. These services allow useful synergies to be found so that transport equipment doesn't have to return empty after unloading, which is not only good for the environment but also for customers like binderholz.
Integrated wood logistics solutions from a single source
This approach also means relieving customers of as much work as possible and putting together a logistics package that, in the best case, combines all services along the wood transport chain. "Of course we also offer transport alone if that's what the customer wants, but to us wood logistics means more than that," says Thorsten Wartenpfuhl, Head of Sales Consumer Goods, Pulp & Paper, Timber. "Our expertise also includes multimodal solutions for customers without a private siding. To implement them, we use around 200 timber loading points throughout Germany, and railports that we integrate into the rail-based supply chain."
DB Cargo Logistics takes on the planning for the entire transport chain, including transhipment to and from lorries and, if required, storage of raw timber and finished wood products. Of particular convenience for customers is that there is no "consultant hopping", as a single customer advisor is responsible for the entire supply chain. "That means our customers get a customised logistics package with all the services they need, from A to Z," Wartenpfuhl adds.
Always with an eye on the market
DB Cargo Logistics has proven itself as a far-sighted and flexible partner for the wood industry. "Fast responses are of the essence due to the raw wood market's currently high volatility. We have to consider droughts, storms and beetle infestations in our planning, take appropriate precautions, and react flexibly," Pflästerer says. "That means staying in constant touch with our customers because we have to be able to adapt to changing procurement strategies at short notice. We were able to show exactly this kind of foresight in Rudolstadt-Schwarza." In a joint project with long-standing partners, DB Cargo Logistics developed a timber port there in a very short time in order to get large amounts of damaged Thuringian Forest timber onto trains.
Timber ports: visibly decoupling road and rail
To get timber out of the forest and onto trains at all, easily accessible loading points are crucial. Most of the time, lorries load it directly onto the freight wagons. The lorries normally have to be at the loading point exactly during the train's dwell time. In Rudolstadt-Schwarza, and also in Trier-Ehrang, the situation is somewhat different. They are two of the six timber ports in all of Germany that offer services in addition to transhipment. That distinguishes these sites from the approximately 200 pure loading stations. Storage areas for timber enable timber shippers to flexibly schedule timber deliveries from the forest or to call for required amounts at the timber port. This approach decouples road and rail, allowing lorry round trips to be scheduled more often and more flexibly as delivery and loading times no longer need to coincide. Not only is the flexibility greater, but the efficiency of the parties also involved in supplying wood is boosted too.
PMG Holzhandels GmbH relies on Trier timber port
The Austrian company PMG Holzhandels GmbH, a timber trading company that operates throughout Europe, has been a DB Cargo Logistics customer for many years. From the Trier timber port, PMG supplies a Belgian customer with beech logs from the Czech Republic.
The timber port plays a pivotal role in a reloading solution involving Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic: DB Cargo Logistics delivers timber to Austria from all over Germany. After being unloaded, the wagons don't return to their starting point empty but set off for the Czech Republic.
In the Czech Republic, the wagons are loaded with beech logs, which are transported to Trier in classic single-wagon transport – up to 20 wagons per week. The delivered logs are then stored at the Trier timber port, where a Belgian customer picks them up by lorry. With this solution, the freight wagons are on the move again immediately after unloading and the recipient can retrieve the wood whenever it needs to. This solution effectively decouples road and rail while increasing the capacity of freight trains, which return to service more quickly.
Our hardware for all types of wood
Its rail network, its many years of expertise, and its well-positioned transhipment sites aren't the only arguments for DB Cargo Logistics. The DB Cargo subsidiary's wide range of special equipment is also a major advantage. Timber transports aren't all alike: the portfolio of goods to be transported includes bagged pellets, particle board, square-sawn timber packages, prefabricated components, and unprocessed logs several metres long. To transport this variety of products, DB Cargo Logistics has a fleet of some 1,600 all-purpose wagons that can be used in efficient reloading solutions for logs and square-sawn timber.
Stanchion wagons are a kind of flat wagon, with steel stakes inserted at their sides to prevent the cargo from falling off. Their special feature is that they can transport both logs and square-sawn timber.
This modular, flexible freight wagon system is suitable for a variety of industries. The new generation of freight wagons will also benefit the wood industry. The m2 Timber System can be used for transporting logs and square-sawn timber in standard market lengths; 14 pairs of stakes allow the transport of up to 7 stacks of 3-metre timber. They can also accommodate long timber. The first m2 wagons with wood superstructures will enter service in 2024.
In contrast to stanchion wagons, sliding-wall wagons are used to transport chipboard, bagged pellets and wooden construction elements. Square-sawn timber packages can also be loaded onto these wagons.
DB Cargo Logistics: Digital and ready for the future
Our transport equipment is also undergoing constant development to take advantage of digital innovations. Having completed the addition of telematics equipment to its fleet, DB Cargo is now testing an automatic weighing system for freight wagons, which could see service in parts of the existing timber fleet in the years ahead. DB Cargo Logistics was also quick to recognise the advantages of digitalisation for organising transports; its proprietary online booking portal was one of the first online booking services in the wood logistics industry and is being improved continuously.
With its experience, foresight and wide range of services, DB Cargo Logistics serves the logistics needs of the wood industry, from forest to building site. With multimodal solutions from a single source, versatile equipment and digital innovations, rail as an environmentally friendly mode of transport is perfectly suited to everyday use by wood-producing and wood-processing companies – whether they have a private siding or not.