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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Inland Port Authority said it was making progress in the ongoing supply chain crisis Tuesday, weeks after it announced partnerships with Union Pacific and others to expedite the shipping of containers to Utah.
Hundreds of miles from the backlog of ships on the west coast, containers are piled high at RSD Container Yard Services, one of a handful of container yards in Salt Lake City.
Neal Pollard is the vice president of operations. He says they normally see lower inventories as shipping picks up during the holidays, but not so much this year. And he says it is because of supply chain issues.
"It's just a lot of containers sitting here," Pollard said. "While there's been record numbers of imports and exports, we've seen excess equipment just staying here for whatever reason."
"It's about moving these boxes in from the coast more efficiently and effectively," Jack Hedge, the executive director of the Inland Port Authority, said. "There's a much more efficient way to get it in here and that's by rail."
A train carrying containers from the Long Beach Port arrived in Salt Lake City just after 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Hedge announced the push to bring containers by rail weeks ago.
He described it as a work in progress and said trucks still carry about 80% of the cargo that come to Utah. The state, he said, has more truck miles traveled per year than any other state in the nation.
"If we can start to move more of that cargo to rail, we cut down on the wear and tear on our roads, we cut down on air emissions," he said.
Another issue with the supply chain, Hedge said, is the shipping containers themselves. Containers that come in from out of the country are standardized for ocean shipping, meaning they are 20 feet or 40 feet in length compared to the 53-foot containers and trailers in the U.S.
Pollard's container yard sits across the street from the railroad. They've partnered with Utah's inland port to expedite the supply chain process for the Wasatch Front and Intermountain West.
"As the port develops these ideas and gets them hopefully to fruition, we're ready to go," Pollard said. "We feel a little slow right now. Hoping for more velocity and we can handle it, too, because obviously, the ship lines want these boxes moving. Sitting here doesn't do them any good."
Hedge emphasized fixing the process is critical for Utahns.
"It's affecting the economy across the board. So, it's important to get this done," he said. "First of all, it will mean there will be things on our shelves."
Hedge also said the Inland Port is also working to build a 5G data network to help track containers so they know exactly where they are, where they're headed and where they're getting stuck.