Class I railroad status reports point to continued service delays

By Erin Voegele | October 31, 2014

On Oct. 29, Class I railroads filed their second weekly status reports with the Surface Transportation Board. According to the STB, the reports will promote industry-wide transparency, accountability and improvements in rail service. Certain data related to ethanol and grain transportation is among the information Class I railroads are required to report.

The BNSF Railway Co. reported systems wide average train speed for ethanol unit trains at 20.5 miles per hour (mph). For train unit trains, it was 19.6 mph. Speed for other train types varied from as high as 30.7 mph for intermodal trains to 17.1 mph for trains categorized as “other.” The weekly average terminal dwell time, excluding run through trains, was 29.2 hours. The BNSF reported total cars on line for the week was 259,763, including 59,353 tank cars. The weekly average dwell time for ethanol unit trains was 22.9 hours, for grain it was 16.6 hours. For crude oil, the average dwell time was 9.5 hours, for coal it was 4.9 hours. The weekly total number of trains held short of destination or scheduled interchange for longer than six hours was 146 for grain unit trains and 11 for ethanol unit trains. The total for all trains was 1,207. The weekly total number of loaded cars in revenue service that have not moved in greater than 120 hours was 60 for ethanol, 615 for grain, and 141 for crude oil. The weekly total number of unloaded cars in revenue service that had not moved in more than 120 hours was 76 for ethanol, 696 for grain, and 188 for crude oil.

Canadian Pacific reported a system-average train speed for ethanol unit trains for 21 mph, for grain units it was 19.1 mph. The weekly average terminal dwell time, excluding cars on run through trains, was 18.3 mph. CP reported 31,787 cars on the line for the week, including 9,313 tank cars. The weekly average dwell time at origin for ethanol unit trains was 15.7 hours. For grain unit trains it was 25.6 hours. The total weekly number of trains held short of destination or scheduled interchange for longer than six hours was three for ethanol unit trains and two for grain unit trains. The weekly total number of loaded cars in revenue service that have not moved in more than 120 hours was zero for ethanol and 85 for grain. The weekly number of empty cars in revenue service that have not moved in more than 120 hours was zero for ethanol and 74 for grain.  

The Canadian National Railway Co., Chicago Transportation Coordination Office, CSX Transportation Inc., Kansas City Southern Railway Co., Norfolk Southern Corp., and Union Pacific Railway Co. also filed the weekly reports.

The STB took action to require these reports in in response to concerns raised at recent hearings, including one that featured testimony from two South Dakota-based ethanol producers. The concerns have primarily focused on the impact of poor and delayed service on the BNSF and CP railways.

The STB has indicated it currently intends to collect this data on a temporary basis. However, a rulemaking will be initiated in the near future to determine whether to institute permanent data reporting requirements on service performance. Full copies of the weekly service reports can be downloaded from the STB website here.