Uniform Rail Costing System

Forcing Round Pegs Into Square Holes

Frank Wilner’s excellent article in the September 2019 issue of Railway Age, “STB Moves to Rehab Antique URCS,” brought back many memories of my direct involvement in its development. To this day, I often spell the acronym for the Uniform Rail Costing System, URCS, backwards—SCRU—as many “experts” developing rail costs with it can produce these results!

URCS: Love It or Hate it, We’re Stuck With It

For a sleep inducer, consider working with the Uniform Rail Costing System (URCS), long a general costing system indispensable for determining maximum reasonable rail rates. Worse, its second side-effect is indigestion, as this 30-year-old accounting relic is much like a classic car lacking modern GPS and satellite radio. Practitioners too often become frustrated with its built-in averages from a time when railroads, rather than shippers, owned most of the freight car fleet and line hauls were shorter as the modern merger movement had not yet run its course.