By Keith Norbury

Temperature-controlled cargo does not necessarily have to be kept cold.

“When people talk about temperature-sensitive, it also means protecting product from freezing,” said Jean Jacques Ruest, Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer of Canadian National Railways. “CN has a large fleet of domestic containers that we call EcoTherm. They are super-insulated containers. For example, when we move beer or juice or canned goods in the winter time, we can’t allow it to freeze from Toronto to Calgary.”

CN now has 500 EcoTherm containers in its fleet, following the acquisition of 200 more this past October.

A 40-foot EcoTherm container does not require additional blocking and bracing, and can carry the same volume as a 53-foot non-insulated container. It loses very little heat and can usually maintain its temperature for up to 10 days, without having to burn diesel fuel to operate a heater, like a conventional heated container.

Paints, pharmaceuticals, canned goods and wine are among the products that have to be protected from freezing, Mr. Ruest noted. So does beer. Brewery giant Molson Coors Canada certainly appreciates the EcoTherm containers.

“The CN super-insulated containers have been part of the Molson Coors’ winter freight program for the last two years and have really made a difference in efficiency, freeze protection and loading capabilities,” Chantal Gariépy, National Transport Manager for Molson Coors Canada, said in a CN news release announcing the most recent EcoTherm purchase.

Kraft Foods is also another major user of the service, Mr. Ruest said.

While temperature-controlled cargo represents only a fraction of CN’s bottom line, “it’s a good business,” Mr. Ruest said. “In a world of consumer goods that need temperature protection, either to stay heated or to stay cool, we are participating in a growing market. It should probably grow at a faster pace than the economy,” Mr Ruest said.