After weeks of providing grain shipment data to the Surface Transportation Board, the regulatory body has directed Canadian Pacific to submit a grain-shipment plan for its U.S. services and BNSF to submit an updated plan, building off the outline it turned into the board in April.
The board ordered the carriers to detail how they will “reduce their respective backlog of unfilled grain car orders and resolve grain car delays … including their timeline for doing so” by June 27. The board also wants to continue to receive grain shipment updates, as it has been doing weekly per an April ruling. During the hearing before that ruling, the STB heard from shippers who were very concerned about the decline of grain service by the railroads.
“Farmers and representatives of agriculture producers described severe, negative effects resulting from backlogged grain car orders and delayed shipments of loaded grain cars,” the board wrote. “The reported impacts included, for example, elevators running out of storage capacity, risks of stored grain spoiling, and penalties incurred by grain shippers for products that are not delivered on time.”
BNSF submitted an overview of how it would improve service levels by making capacity investments, adding employees and putting more locomotives on certain routes, but CP, the board said, had not “clearly articulated” its path forward.
“Although the data submitted by both railroads indicates some initial progress toward reducing their grain car order backlogs and grain car delays, the board remains very concerned about the limited time period until the next harvest, the large quantities of grain yet to be moved, and the railroads’ paths toward meeting their respective commitments,” it said in the ruling, which was passed down June 20 and recently posted on the board’s website.
The new reports will include weekly data on outstanding grain car orders, orders filled, orders cancelled both by shippers and by the railroad, and the number of days late for tardy orders.
“CP and BNSF shall also report the number of cars allocated to grain car service each week, including the number of private cars in service,” the board said. “CP’s report shall include the number of grain cars requested by Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad, Inc, and the number of cars furnished by CP on a weekly basis. These reports will be required for each carrier until it resolves its backlog of unfilled grain car orders.”