BNSF: Operational performance shows ‘strong resilience’ | So Good News
Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
BNSF Railway (BNSF) announced on October 28 that its operational performance “continues to show strong resilience despite several service challenges in recent weeks.”
Going into November, BNSF says it is delivering strong fall harvest volumes, as well as improved coal volumes. “As we continue to prepare for the peak holiday season, restrictions at our ports have eased significantly and we are up to speed on shipments to our inland intermodal facilities,” Class I added.
In terms of key service metrics, BNSF says total car speeds were slightly higher than last month but lower than last week, reflecting weather-related issues last weekend. According to Class I, high winds in New Mexico and Colorado, with reported 80 mph gusts, and across the Texas Panhandle north into Wyoming and east into Kansas resulted in train delays and reduced speeds. Average terminal occupancy, BNSF says, is unchanged from last week, but is 2% lower than last month. BNSF’s local service compliance measure, which reflects its “timeliness in handling freight,” averaged nearly 89% for the week.
Separately, the rail industry continues to move through its 12 unions’ final stages of the national bargaining process with tentative agreements reached with all unions, and ratified agreements reached with half. Two unions have refused to ratify and four unions are awaiting ratification of the tentative agreements, which implemented the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) and included “the most significant wage increases in decades,” with average wages for railroad workers reaching about $110,000 per year at the end of the agreement. With health care, retirement and other benefits taken into account, the value of railroad employees’ total compensation package averages about $160,000 per year.
According to BNSF, there has been “misleading” media coverage following a recent failed BMWED ratification regarding paid sick leave not available to BMWED members. BMWED leadership initially hailed the tentative agreement, saying it would “significantly improve members’ wages and working conditions.” Their recent claims of not getting sick time are inaccurate, BNSF says, as BMWED-represented employees have extensive paid sick leave that starts after four days of absence and lasts up to 52 weeks. “The structure of these benefits is a function of decades of negotiations in which unions, including BMWED, have repeatedly agreed that short-term absences will be unpaid in favor of higher compensation for working days and generous sick pay for longer absences. The PEB denied the workforce’s request for paid sick days beyond what they currently have as it balanced the interests of both parties, BNSF said.
“We are working together to develop the next steps with the two unions that refused to ratify the tentative agreements,” BNSF said. “The status quo period will last several weeks and continue to ensure that Congress is in session at the time of expiration to be able to intervene if necessary. As such, a failed ratification does not pose a risk of immediate service interruption.”
In addition, BNSF says it “continues to confront [problems] associated with congestion at key inland intermodal facilities, primarily driven by international chassis shortages.” Long chassis turnaround times continue to deplete the assets needed to unload trains, particularly 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 the Corwith Intermodal Facility.
“We remind our intermodal customers that immediate pickup of shipments will help improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and provide the space needed to process incoming freight as quickly as possible,” BNSF said. “We greatly appreciate those customers who can implement flexible pickup times to help carriers.”
According to BNSF, the railroad has several tools available to customers to track their shipments.
For the coming week, BNSF says that seasonal weather and favorable operating conditions are expected, with no extreme weather expected.