Rail status reports indicate continued congestion in Midwest

By Erin Voegele | November 07, 2014

Class I railroads have filed their third weekly status reports with the Surface Transportation Board. The reports provide an overview of operational performance for the week beginning Oct. 26.

The BNSF Railway Co. reported system average trains speeds for ethanol unit trains of 22 miles per hour (mph), with the system average train speed for grain unit trains at 19.6 mph. The system average terminal dwell time for the week, excluding cars on run through trains, was 28.4 hours. The BNSF reported 258,902 cars on the line for the week, including 58,853 tank cars. The weekly average dwell time at origin for ethanol unit trains was 21.9 hours. For grain unit trains, it was 11.7 hours. The lowest weekly average dwell time reported for unit trains was 7.1 hours for crude oil unit trains. The longest was 27.3 hours for automotive unit trains. The weekly total number of trains held short of destination or scheduled interchange for more than six hours was 14 for ethanol unit trains and 152 for grain unit trains. It was 1,202 for all trains. The weekly number of loaded cars in revenue service that had have not moved in more than 120 hours was 118 for ethanol, 609 for grain and 9 for crude oil. The total number of empty cars in revenue service that have not moved in more than 120 hours was 181 for ethanol, 1,060 for grain and 46 for crude oil. BNSF reported that the weekly total number of loaded cars in revenue service that had not moved in between 48 and 120 hours was 909 for ethanol, 2,147 for grain and 144 for crude oil. For empty cars in revenue service, it was 1,043 for ethanol, 2,162 for grain and 647 for crude oil.

Canadian Pacific reported a system average train speed for ethanol unit trains of 18.1 mph and 19.6 mph for grain unit trains. The weekly average terminal dwell time, excluding cars on run through trains, was 19.4 hours.  Canadian Pacific reported 32,682 total cars on line for the week, including 9,826 tank cars. The weekly average dwell time at origin for ethanol unit trains was 19.9 hours. For grain unit trains, it was 39.6 hours. The weekly total number of trains held short of destination or scheduled interchange for longer than six hours was five for ethanol unit trains and nine for grain unit trains. The weekly total number of cars in revenue service that have not moved in greater than 120 hours was zero for both loaded and empty ethanol cars. The total number of ethanol cars that had not moved in 48 to 120 hours was zero for loaded and empty cars. The total number of grain cars in revenue service that have not moved in more than 120 hours was 134 for loaded cars and 39 for empty cars. The total number of loaded cars that have not moved in 24 to 120 hours was 506. For empty cars, it was 83.

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. According to the STB, the reports will promote industry-wide transparency, accountability and improvements in rail service.

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.