Intermodal Network Update for Friday, May 27, 2022
BNSF operating teams remain engaged in our service recovery program to restore and increase network productivity. Ongoing car inventory reduction efforts are making some progress in generating higher velocity and improved cycle times. We continue to work collaboratively with customers to ensure that railcar, power, and train crew resources are allocated in the most productive manner possible.
Earlier this week, we experienced slower train speeds as well as additional congestion at endpoint terminals along our Southern Transcon route and in the Gulf Coast region due to high winds and several service interruptions. With better operating conditions, we have been working to improve service levels in affected areas.
As part of our recovery program, we continue to address resource constraints at some key locations. We have been deploying more locomotives into our active fleet as well as repositioning units to places that are in greater need. We are constantly evaluating and adjusting the number of additional units that may join the fleet in alignment with freight volumes.
We are also working diligently to improve train crew availability in some areas, particularly Southern California. As we have reported, our 2022 hiring plan calls for hiring nearly 1,800 train crew personnel, as well as approximately 1,200 new personnel on our Engineering, Mechanical and Dispatcher teams. Our plan remains on pace as we have already hired more than 400 new train crew personnel, half of which have completed their training, with the other trainees following in the next 90 days.
Working to Normalize Intermodal Service in Southern California
Much of our service recovery efforts are focused on improving our intermodal service in Southern California. BNSF has implemented some temporary gate allocations at key intermodal facilities to help support these efforts and improve fluidity. To lessen the impacts of service interruptions, we have added mechanical responders to assist in expediting service restoration.
Resource availability remains one of our biggest ongoing challenges. In addition to deploying more locomotives into the active fleet and repositioning units, any locomotives returning to service from our mechanical shops are being directed to areas of need, like Southern California. To support our recruiting efforts in this challenging labor market, we are offering several incentives, including temporary transfers and vacation buybacks, to current employees as well as candidates to locate in high-need areas like Southern California.
We are also taking the necessary steps to ensure that capacity is available in key inland intermodal markets. At our Logistics Park Chicago (LPC) facility, strong volumes, longer dwell times and chassis constraints have resulted in a significant number of trains staged waiting to be unloaded. This has delayed the unloading of cars and slowed their return to the West Coast to handle the continued strong demand for imported cargo. We have taken steps to improve and expand our offsite container capabilities in recent months, which has helped to mitigate impacts on our ability to process trains at LPC when containers are not being picked up in a timely manner. We are also working with the port terminals to ensure maximum volume is loaded to LPC to match the truck/chassis capacity to outgate units.
During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we remind customers that prompt pick-up of shipments at our intermodal facilities will help improve traffic flows, reduce lot congestion, and provide the space needed for processing inbound freight expeditiously as possible. We greatly appreciate those customers who can implement flexible receiving hours to assist carriers and help improve the overall supply chain fluidity. BNSF has multiple tools available for customers to track their shipments. Please contact your BNSF marketing representative if you have any questions.
Regarding key service metrics, overall car velocity was down slightly from the prior reporting week but is running 3% higher than the average for April. Terminal dwell increased and remains elevated, although still slightly below last month’s average. Our local service compliance measure improved by about 2% versus both the prior week and prior month.
Memorial Day Holiday Operating Plan
BNSF’s Intermodal Memorial Day operating plan will remain focused on meeting customers’ expectations while matching operations to rail volumes.
BNSF will continue to operate Intermodal trains over the Memorial Day holiday. However, due to lighter volumes of traffic and possible train consolidations, we anticipate that shipments from Saturday, May 28 through noon on Tuesday, May 31 may experience delays of up to 24 hours. Connecting carriers who have reduced operations for the holiday may cause delays on interline traffic.
Most intermodal facilities will maintain regular hours of operation through the holiday weekend; a complete list of hub schedules can be found here.
Customer Support will maintain a limited staff on Memorial Day. Normal coverage will resume on Tuesday, May 31.
Service Expectations for the Week Ahead
Favorable operating conditions are expected across much of the BNSF network during the holiday week. We continue to monitor the high risk for wildfire activity in the Southwest, particularly in New Mexico, as severe to exceptional drought persists in most locations.
As always, we thank you for your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve as your transportation service provider. We welcome your feedback and questions.