Cargobeamer, the innovative European automated system that allows up to 38 trucks to be loaded onto a train in just 20 minutes

Transporting goods in an ecological and intermodal manner is a business that requires large capital and long-term planning. In this context, the German company Cargobeamer stands out as an innovative logistics service provider that addresses a central problem in rail freight transport. This company has developed an automated system that allows trailers, even those that cannot be handled by cranes, to be loaded onto trains using specialized terminals and wagons. This solution promises great opportunities for freight transport in Europe.

The logistical problem of freight transportation

One of the most significant challenges in rail freight transportation is the need to wait hours to load trailers at loading points, or in many cases, the inability to do so. According to data from the German Federal Statistical Office, freight transport is distributed as follows:

  • 3.1 billion tons by road.
  • 337 million tons by rail.
  • 182 million tons by river.

Rail transport represents a small fraction that has remained virtually unchanged in recent years, dominated by road transport. However, cleantech companies like Cargobeamer are developing specific solutions to address these rail transportation challenges and change this trend.

Innovative Cargobeamer Solution

Cargobeamer’s system includes its own wagons, transshipment terminals and logistics software to allow the rail transport of trailers that cannot be manipulated by cranes. This solution offers a significant advantage for truck drivers, who can leave their trailers at a terminal and accept another order immediately. Cargobeamer has innovated by laterally moving trailers onto specialized train cars, eliminating the need for overhead cranes and individual cars that require considerable effort to load at rail yards.

Compared to traditional crane terminals, where approximately four truck units can be loaded per hour, Cargobeamer’s system can load 38 units in just 20 minutes, a nine-fold speedup.

How CargoBeamer works

  1. Arrival: The truck loaded with a semi-trailer arrives at the terminal and places it in one of the parking lots. CargoBeamer can load any type of semi-trailer.
  2. No waiting times: The tractor unit and the driver can leave the terminal again immediately or directly take a new semi-trailer. There are no waiting times with CargoBeamer.
  3. Preparation: A terminal vehicle takes the semi-trailer to a waiting transport tub next to the change lane and uncouples.
  4. Loading and unloading: As soon as the train arrives, the semi-trailers are loaded automatically and simultaneously. Meanwhile, arriving semi-trailers are unloaded in the same way. The process only takes 20 minutes for an entire train.
  5. Exit: The train that is fully loaded can leave. In this way, CargoBeamer takes over the part of long-distance rail transport and is faster, more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Environmental impact and expansion

Cargobeamer’s first full terminal is located in Calais, France. This terminal can load and unload a complete train in 15 minutes, even for trailers that cannot be handled by cranes.

The company currently operates around 430 freight wagons, making 50 weekly trips between several European countries, including Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

According to CEO Nicolas Albrecht, the long-term goal is to operate around 20 terminals by 2030, with four to six in Germany. This would allow approximately 50 routes within Europe, creating a network of terminals interconnected by fixed schedules.

The combination of truck and train reduces emissions by 85% compared to road transport. Each train saves 32 tons of CO2adding an annual reduction of 34,000 tons of CO2. This significant impact contributes to the fight against climate change and the transition towards more sustainable transport.

Competition and market

Cargobeamer’s innovative technology has attracted competitors such as the Lohr group with its MODALOHR system and Helrom of Frankfurt, which completely avoids the use of cranes and terminals, although it covers fewer routes.

Large logistics companies such as Amazon Prime, DHL and DB Schenker are Cargobeamer customers. Although rail freight volume decreased by 15% in 2023, Cargobeamer increased its own volume by 25%, demonstrating the effectiveness and demand of its system. The potential market is estimated at 77 billion euros, increasing the relevance of the sector for investors.

Support and Investments

Since its founding, Cargobeamer has received more than €180 million in venture capital and private equity. In 2024, it announced a financing round of 140 million euros, including 90 million euros in subsidies from the German and Swiss governments for new terminals.

Although the operating business is profitable, high investment costs keep the overall results in the red. Each terminal costs around 50 million euros, and the company also invests in the construction of specialized railcars in Bulgaria and Erfurt, employing 120 people.

Cargobeamer has recently signed a letter of intent for a new terminal in Saxony, demonstrating that new investments are driving its expansion to transfer more traffic from road to rail. The effectiveness of this innovative technology will be seen in the coming years, but the arguments for reducing emissions and easing traffic are strong.

With considerable backing and a clear strategy, Cargobeamer is positioned as a key player in the transformation of freight transport in Europe towards a more sustainable and efficient future.

More information: www.cargobeamer.com

Summary:

Imagine that you have a very large box that you need to carry from one place to another. Normally, you could put it in the back of a truck and drive to your destination. But what happens if there is a lot of traffic or if the truck can’t reach certain places? This is where Cargobeamer comes into play.

When transporting many large boxes (such as truck trailers), they sometimes cannot be loaded onto trains because there are no cranes large enough to lift them. This means that trucks have to wait a long time or cannot use the train at all. And using only trucks is not good for the environment because it produces a lot of smoke and pollution.

Cargobeamer has created a special way to load these truck trailers onto trains without the need for giant cranes. Here I explain how it works:

1. Special Terminals

Cargobeamer has special places called terminals. Trucks arrive at these terminals and leave their trailers.

2. Lateral Movement

Instead of lifting the trailers, Cargobeamer moves them laterally (sideways) on specially designed train cars. It’s like sliding the big box from a truck onto a train without having to lift it.

3. Special Wagons

These train cars are made to make it easy to load and unload trailers. Trailers simply slide onto them and are secured for the trip.

4. Speed

This system is very fast. Cargobeamer can load 38 trailers in just 20 minutes. If they used traditional cranes, it would take much longer.

5. Advantages for Drivers

Truck drivers can leave their trailer at a terminal and move on to another job immediately. They don’t have to wait for the train to load.

6. Benefits for the Environment

Using trains instead of just trucks greatly reduces pollution. Cargobeamer trains emit 85% less smoke than trucks. Each train can save 32 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a gas that pollutes the air.

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