The ‘Big 4’ Class I railroads; BNSF, CSX, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern, delivered, after the Surface Transportation Board asked them to submit detailed service recovery plans.
The Board required the railroads to provide a service recovery plan, identifying the steps the railroads plan to take to clear congestion, as well as improve services and progress reports which will detai metrics they plan to use to evaluate progress over the next 6 months.
BNSF attributed their recent service difficulties to a drastic increase in volumes in 2021 which were more than what BNSF and their customers were predicting, they stated in their filing to the STB. BNSF continued to say during the Board hearing last month that they have “included a buffer in their resource planning processes.,” and the accelerated demand experienced beginning in 2021 outpaced their ability to quickly flex up resources to handle the volume surge,” Railway Age reported.
BNSF Service Recovery Plan includes hiring and training efforts, increasing locomotive availability, and temporary reductions to car inventory.
Hiring and training efforts: In the fourth quarter of 2021, BNSF increased their hiring, especially in areas that faced greater challenges to hire and retain operating employees. So far this year they have hired 402 train, yard and engine employees, Railway Age reports. Furthermore, BNSF also implemented several programs to support recruiting and a variety of incentives to current and future employees. BNSF will continue to evaluate their hiring and training targets as needed throughout the year.
Increasing locomotive availability: BNSF increased their active locomotive fleet by 350 units since the beginning of winter, continuing to use their resources to get those units ready for active service quickly, reports state.
Temporary reductions to car inventory: BNSF is mindful that as they take cars offline, it may have short-term capacity effects for their customers and are providing incentives to customers who take cars offline, voluntarily.
BNSF concluded that to track the plan’s effectiveness, they will monitor train velocity, terminal dwell, average trains holding, on-time performance, and local service compliance.
In their service recovery plans, CSX gave the STB information on four service performance indicators with will be updated over the next six months.
Trip Plan Compliance (TPC; placement within 24 hours of the original estimated time of arrival): System-wide TPC (manifest) for CSX pursuant to [STB] metric 7(i) is 69% for week 19 (the week ending May 13th, 2022) CSX says. They are hopeful it will be at or above 80%.
First-Mile/Last-Mile (FMLM; percentage of scheduled spots and pulls that were fulfilled): The system-wide FMLM based on [STB] metric 5 is 83% for the week ending May 13th, 2022 – CSX expects that figure to be at or above 85% by the end of six months, they say.
Velocity: System-wide velocity came in at 22 mph for the week ending May 13th, 2022, and CSX expects that figure to be at or above 23.5 MPH at the end of the six-months.
Dwell: System-wide dwell is about 24.4 hours for the week ending May 13th, 2022, and CSX expects that figure to be at or below 23.5 MPH at the end of the six-months.
CSX also mentioned that they need “to be more creative and determined in their approach to recruiting, staffing and engaging employees.” CSX also reevaluated the requirements it has for the conductor role by getting rid of unnecessary prerequisites and increased their recruitment initiatives.
Crew Initiatives: UP reported that they temporarily relocated around 150 train, engine, and yard employees in an effort to provide additional crew supply for a number of specific hubs. UP also stated that their hiring and training has “steadily increased since the fourth quarter of 2021” and is well-positioned to achieve it’s end of year goal of hiring, training and graduating 1,400 employees, Railway Age reported.
Locomotive Initiatives: UP has added 150 locomotives to their network since the start of 2022 and will continue locomotive modernization and overhaul programs to improve fleet reliability, which they say will “reduce variability on the network and improve their service consistently.”
Railcar Initiatives: UP and their customers have “mutually agreed to remove 1-3% of private railcars on the system”, which they say will help improve car velocity and reduce cycle times for the remaining cars on their network.
Key Performance Indicators: UP also noted that they will use five key performance indicators to show whether fluidity is improving throughout the network including: car velocity, operating inventory, cars per carload, First Mile-Last Mile, and Trip Plan Compliance (TPC).
NS continues to report that they are “highly motivated” to continue improving and restoring service/handling higher volumes.
System velocity: NS told the STB that they do not have a system-wide velocity restriction. Additionally for the week ending May 13th, 2022, the Class I railroad’s system average train speed was 17.34 MPH. Their goal is to achieve a system average train speed in the range of 21.5-23.1 MPH.
Terminal Dwell: For the week ending May 13th, 2022, NS’s average system terminal dwell was 28.1 hours, their goal is to achieve an average system terminal dwell in the range of 18.1-22.4 hours, they noted.
Local operating plan adherence: For the week ending May 13th, 2022, NS’s system average local operating plan adherence was 74%. Their goal is to achieve a system average of 75.5%-83.3%, they noted.
On-time delivery: For the week ending May 13th, 2022, NS’s weekly percentage of manifest service railcars placed within 24 hours of the original ETA was 48%, Railway Age noted. Their goal is to achieve an average weekly on-time delivery in the range of 74.9%-87%.
T&E Headcount: Something that NS stated as importance to their service recovery is having the right number of T&E employees at the right location at the right time to meet demand. As of May 16th NS has 930 conductor trainees on property and is expected to grow throughout the year.
We will continue to provide updates on the latest in the industry and more throughout the year and beyond. If you have any questions or comments regarding this topic, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact our team today!