The Class I railroads in the western U.S. -- BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railway (UP) -- continue to respond to and recover from poor winter weather, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent “Grain Transportation Report."
Below-normal temperatures have occurred across the interior Northwest, causing both BNSF and UP to report numerous service disruptions due to weather delays in December and January, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, along the Northern Corridor and in northern California.
“Ice is especially troublesome to railroads because it can prevent crews from reaching trains, increase the risk of derailment and create challenges for the braking systems of trains, all resulting in slower train speeds and turn times,” USDA noted.
The railroads have also reported issues with washed-out track due to heavy rains and downed trees due to heavy snow.
The Surface Transportation Board’s backlog data reflect these service disruptions to some degree. For example, for the four weeks ending Jan. 4, average backlogs increased by 136 cars for BNSF, 127 for Canadian Pacific and 291 cars for UP versus the previous four weeks. These small increases in outstanding orders are likely due partially to the extreme weather.