October 13, 2014

13/10/2014" Weekly reporting of expanded US rail services

Responding to long-standing requests from the NGFA, as well as individual rail shippers and receivers, the Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced October 8 that it will require expanded public reporting of rail service metrics on a weekly basis - including for the first time for non-agricultural products - and extend the reporting requirement to all Class I railroads.

Previously, the weekly reporting requirement was limited to the BNSF and Canadian Pacific Railways, and applied only to grain (and to fertilizer for a period earlier this spring). 

The new STB order also expands the scope and granularity of service metrics that all Class I railroads now will be required to report, and applies some of the reporting requirements to encompass coal, crude oil, ethanol, automotive, intermodal and manifest traffic.  Railroads are required to start reporting the newly expanded service metrics on Oct. 22.

The STB's decision [Docket No. EP 724 (Sub. No.-3)] noted that rail shippers had expressed repeated concerns - first voiced during the agency's April public meeting on rail service issues - about the lack of publicly available rail service metrics, as well as the need to obtain access to certain performance data from railroads to enable rail users to better understand the scope, magnitude and impact of current service issues.  

During a subsequent September public meeting in Fargo, N.D., the STB wrote, rail customers again expressed a need for "greater industry-wide transparency on rail service metrics to allow them to plan logistics, minimize economic harm to operations and revenues, assist with business planning, and to better serve their own customers during the service-recovery period...(while also) bringing transparency regarding the extent to which railroads are improving and resolving the ongoing service issues."  The STB's decision issued Oct. 8 specifically referenced statements and letters to this effect submitted to the agency by the NGFA, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association and North Dakota Public Service Commission.

The STB wrote that it "agrees there is a need for broader standardized performance data from the railroad industry as it continues to address existing service challenges (and) that it is necessary to apply these reporting requirements to all of the Class I carriers" given the interconnectedness of the national rail network and service problems experienced in the East and other regions.  "The new reporting requirements will give the agency and stakeholders access to data needed for real-time understanding of regional and national service issues," the STB decision stated.

Specifically, the STB order requires weekly reporting of the following rail service metrics:

System-average train speeds for grain, intermodal, coal, automotive, crude oil, ethanol, manifest and a category for "all other" traffic.
Weekly average terminal dwell times (in hours) - excluding cars on run-through trains transiting terminals - for the carrier's system and its 10 largest terminals (as measured by car capacity).

Total cars on the carrier's line, by type (e.g., covered hoppers, intermodal, tank cars, etc.)
Weekly average dwell times at origin for unit train shipments for grain, coal, automotive, crude oil, ethanol and all other unit trains.

Weekly total number of trains held short of destination or scheduled interchange for longer than six hours, again based upon train types (e.g., grain, coal, automotive, intermodal, crude oil, ethanol and all other products).

Weekly total number of loaded and empty cars in revenue service that have not "moved" in:  1) more than 120 hours); and 2) more than 48 hours but less than or equal to 120 hours - again, sorted by train types (grain, coal, automotive, intermodal, crude oil, ethanol and all other products).  The term "moved" refers to the train movement or a spot or pull from a customer location.

Weekly total number of grain cars loaded and billed, by state, aggregated by commodity (eg, corn, soybeans, wheat, etc).  This reporting is to include cars in shuttle service, dedicated train service, reservation, lottery, open and other ordering systems, and private cars.  The STB also is requiring reporting of total cars loaded and billed in shuttle (or dedicated train) service versus all other ordering systems (including private cars).  Reporting on grain cars also is to include metrics - by commodity and state - comparing week-to-week performance on outstanding car orders, average number of days late, new car orders received, number of car orders filled and number of orders canceled by the shipper and railroad.

Planned versus actual performance for grain shuttle or dedicated grain train round trips, by region, updated to reflect the previous four weeks. 

Average daily coal unit train loadings versus planned loadings, by coal-production region.

Importantly, the STB's order also requires collaborative reporting of detailed rail service metrics specific to the congestion at the Chicago terminal hub by the six Class I carriers operating at the Chicago gateway - BNSF, Union Pacific, CSXT, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.  Reporting of the metrics for the Chicago terminal also is required starting Oct. 22.

The Global Miller
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which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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