BNSF operating teams confronted a major winter storm following the Thanksgiving holiday, which caused multiple service interruptions and delays in several areas. Road closures due to heavy snow in Wyoming impacted train crew movements particularly involving coal traffic. High winds across parts of the region last weekend, with speeds reaching nearly 80 miles an hour in central Nebraska, also negatively affected overall service performance.
Following the storm, BNSF teams have driven operational performance back to the strong levels reported prior to the holiday. While this week's averages are down versus the previous week, car and train velocity has rebounded by nearly 20 percent during the past few days, and terminal dwell has been reduced by nearly 25 percent.
Extreme Winter Weather Operations
Going into the winter season, the BNSF network remains in the best condition it has ever been. Each of BNSF's 10 operating divisions maintains a detailed Winter Action Plan to ensure that the necessary resources and procedures are in place to operate safely and efficiently in the harshest of conditions. As part of these plans, which are reevaluated and updated in the months leading up to winter, we have teams of Mechanical and Engineering Rapid Responders to resolve service interruptions as quickly as possible. We also have more than 4,800 switch heaters in place on the network, with another 100 added in various locations this year, to ensure that remote-controlled rail switches do not freeze.
New this winter, BNSF has acquired and retrofitted two passenger cars to help position crews over the mountain passes on the Northwest and Montana divisions. When roads are closed and using vans for crew transport is not feasible, these cars will provide the support necessary to help keep trains moving and avoid delays. Both cars are scheduled to move to their assigned locations next week.
We have also created a new webpage, BNSF.com/winter, that addresses BNSF operations during extreme winter weather. Throughout the winter season, this webpage will include information on any significant disruptions, including track outage maps, caused by major storms. The webpage also features videos that highlight how we operate in frigid temperatures as well as profile our avalanche mitigation team in Montana. We will continue to post additional multimedia content to the webpage in the weeks ahead.
Service Expectations for the Week Ahead
BNSF operating teams expect to generate improved performance during the upcoming week with a continued focus on effectively matching resources to freight volumes. By the middle of next week, an Arctic outbreak of extreme cold is anticipated across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Some train length restrictions may be necessary at times as temperatures could drop to nearly 20 below zero in several North Dakota and Minnesota locations.
Below is a look at the key operational performance categories for the week ending December 5:
Total trains held for the week increased by more than 38 percent with an average of 134.4 trains held versus 97.3 trains held during the prior week.
Versus the November 2019 average: up by 31.0%
Versus the December 2018 average: up by 6.4%
Total trains on the system decreased by nearly six percent versus the prior week with an average of 1,400 trains on the system.
Versus the November 2019 average: down by 7.6%
Versus the December 2018 average: down by 9.2%
Car velocity, measured in miles per day (MPD), was down by nearly seven percent at 200.7 MPD versus 215.1 MPD recorded the prior week.
Versus the November 2019 average: down by 4.5%
Versus the December 2018 average: down by 1.7%
Train velocity, measured in miles per hour (MPH), was down by nearly five percent versus the prior week at 16.9 MPH.
Versus the November 2019 average: down by 1.6%
Versus the December 2018 average: down by 2.7%
Total volume was down by nearly 14 percent from the prior week with 174,755 units moved in Week 48 (ending November 30, which includes the Thanksgiving holiday) versus 203,029 units in Week 47 (ending November 23).
Terminal dwell increased by nearly two percent versus the prior week at 25.0 hours.
Versus the November 2019 average: up by 0.2%
Versus the December 2018 average: down by 6.5%
As always, we thank you for your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve as your transportation service provider. We welcome your feedback and questions.