A little more than a week after its April 26-27, 2022 “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service” hearing, the Surface Transportation Board issued updated, more-comprehensive rules for reporting performance and employment metrics. The eight-part regulations, which mostly affect the “Big 4”—BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific—include frequent progress reports, among other measures.
Railway Age has been frequently reporting on these metrics. Among the most recent developments is the STB extending its reporting period to Dec. 31, 2023, but modifying CSX’s requirements, exempting the railroad from submitting biweekly service progress reports and trainee information in monthly employment data figures. That’s a positive development.
I’ve always found BNSF’s reporting of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) refreshing in their clarity and simplicity. Here are the most recent:
“This clearly shows BNSF’s progress against the recovery goals set a year ago,” comments long-time Railway Age contributor and industry consultant Roy Blanchard. ”It is essentially an aggregation of the spreadsheet that shows by line item the recent performance of each—for example grain trains, yard dwells, trains held by reason, trip plan compliance, etc. BNSF is the only railroad to show the aggregate results in a simple chart. Everybody else uses endless paragraphs of legalese. This is an excellent example of what can be done to get closer to the customer, a goal Katie Farmer (our 2023 Railroader of the Year) first cited when she assumed the corner office.”
No surprise, these developments are not considered newsworthy by the general media. Derailments and grandstanding politicians painting dystopian railroad pictures are. Yes, a motor vehicle train derailed on BNSF a couple of days ago—cause yet to be determined, and no injuries, no hazmat spills, no evacuations, thank goodness—and it made the national news as “another freight train derailment.” But from where many of us in the industry stand, it shouldn’t tarnish what the numbers above show.
Here’s something else you won’t see in the national news. It’s from IBM, and includes a video:
“BNSF, one of North America’s largest railroads, collects data from thousands of sensors and needed a system that could interpret this data to effect real time safety and reliability actions. Through partnership with IBM Services, BNSF leveraged its sensor data to reduce safety incidents. It’s one of many ways BNSF uses IBM technology to run a safe and efficient transportation network.
“BNSF and IBM: 4.4 billion transactions per day handled by BNSF’s Transportation Support System (TSS). More than 3,000 wayside detectors collecting data 24/7. A 60% reduction in derailments since 2008. A 50% reduction in the employee injury rate over the past 10 years.”