Our network operating teams generated improved service performance this week after a challenging end to the month of October. Last week, a major winter storm impacted a large portion of our Southern Transcon route. High winds in New Mexico, with reported gusts of 90 miles per hour, as well as significant ice and snow across the Texas Panhandle eastward into Kansas resulted in some train delays and reduced velocity. The slow-moving storm and widespread power outages also hindered recovery efforts along this busy corridor.
As favorable operating conditions returned, train flows largely normalized along with increased velocity. Car velocity was up by nearly four percent versus the prior week and is essentially unchanged versus the average level for October. Total volume on the railroad is running at peak season levels, driven by strong intermodal and agricultural shipment demands, as we continue to move approximately 200,000 units each week. BNSF teams continue to focus on balancing resources with freight demands and adjusting operating plans at hub facilities to improve efficiency.
Carryback Policy Reminder
During the winter months, we have experienced significant issues due to “carryback”: residual coal that remains in the railcar after it has been unloaded at destination. Frozen carryback, which is usually on one side of the car, impacts the bearings that are part of the car’s truck bolster from working as intended and increases the likelihood of a derailment due to improper weight distribution.
As a reminder, under Item 230 of BNSF 6041 Coal Rules and Regulations, shippers are responsible for the complete unloading of coal cars and securing of coal car doors prior to the departure of an empty unit train from its destination. If BNSF discovers carryback in any coal car in the unit train after it has departed destination, and it has created an unsafe operating condition, BNSF may remove the car from the train and will impose applicable charges associated with its removal.
We appreciate your attention to this issue. Please contact the BNSF Coal Team with any questions.
Service Expectations for the Week Ahead
We are monitoring another major winter storm that may create some service challenges this weekend. Winter storm watches are in effect from Saturday afternoon through Monday morning across much of Montana as 1-2 feet of snow along with blizzard conditions are expected.
Our Montana Division has implemented its Winter Action Plan to ensure that our workforce is prepared to work safely, equipment is positioned to keep trains moving and we are able to quickly add resources in response to any service interruptions.