BNSF: Operational Performance Exhibits ‘Strong Resiliency’

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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BNSF Railway (BNSF) announced Oct. 28 that its operational performance “continues to exhibit strong resiliency despite confronting multiple service challenges over the past few weeks.”

As it moves into November, BNSF says it is delivering strong volumes for fall harvest, as well as improved coal volumes. “As we continue to prepare for peak holiday shipping season, restrictions at our ports have substantially eased, and we are current on shipments into our inland intermodal facilities,” the Class I added.

Regarding key service metrics, BNSF says overall car velocity was slightly higher than the previous month but lower than the prior week, reflecting weather-related problems the prior weekend weekend. According to the Class I, high winds in New Mexico and Colorado, with reported gusts of 80 mph, and across the Texas Panhandle north into Wyoming and eastward into Kansas resulted in train delays and reduced velocity. Average terminal dwell, BNSF says, remains unchanged from the previous week but is running 2% lower than the prior-month period. BNSF’s local service compliance measure, which reflects its “timeliness in the handling of carload freight,” averaged nearly 89% for the week.

Separately, the rail industry continues progressing through its 12 unions’ final stages of the national bargaining process with tentative agreements reached with all the unions, and ratified agreements reached with half. Two unions have declined to ratify, and four unions are pending ratification of the tentative agreements, which implemented the recommendations from the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) and included “the most substantial wage increases in decades,” with the average rail worker wages reaching about $110,000 per year by the end of the agreement. With health care, retirement and other benefits considered, the value of rail employees’ total compensation package averages about $160,000 per year.

According to BNSF, there have been “misleading” media reports following a recently failed BMWED ratification regarding paid sick leave not being available to BMWED members. BMWED leadership originally hailed the tentative agreement, saying it would “substantially improve their members’ wages and working conditions.” Their recent claims of not being provided sick time are inaccurate, BNSF says, as BMWED-represented employees have comprehensive paid sickness benefits starting after four days of absence and lasting up to 52 weeks. “The structure of these benefits is a function of decades of bargaining where unions, including BMWED, have repeatedly agreed that short-term absences would be unpaid in favor of higher compensation for days worked and more generous sickness benefits for longer absences. The PEB declined labor’s request for paid sick days beyond what they have today as it balanced the interests of both parties,” BNSF said.

“We are working together to develop the next steps with the two unions who declined to ratify the tentative agreements,” BNSF said. “The status quo period will run for several more weeks and continue to ensure Congress is in session at the time of expiration to be able to intervene if necessary. As such, a failed ratification does not present risk of an immediate service disruption.”

Additionally, BNSF says it “continues to confront [problems] associated with congestion at key inland intermodal facilities primarily driven by international chassis shortages.” Lengthy street turn times for chassis continue to deplete the assets needed to unload trains, specifically at Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC), Logistics Park Chicago (LPC), as well as the railroad’s Alliance and Memphis hubs. BNSF says it is also experiencing high domestic dwell times at its Corwith Intermodal Facility.

“We remind our intermodal customers that prompt pickup of shipments will help improve traffic flows, reduce lot congestion and provide the space needed for processing inbound freight as expeditiously as possible,” BNSF said. “We greatly appreciate those customers who can implement flexible receiving hours to assist carriers.”

According to BNSF, the railroad has multiple tools available for customers to track their shipments.

For the week ahead, BNSF says seasonable weather and favorable operating conditions are expected, with no extreme weather anticipated.

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