Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) announced this week that it moved a record 21.8 million metric tons of western Canadian grain during the 2016-17 crop year.
"Through innovation, collaboration and improved communication with our supply chain partners, CN moved more grain in a single crop year than ever before," Doug MacDonald, CN vice president of bulk, said. "We did this by further developing our supply chain ingenuity with our partners to meet demand, resulting in improvements in the use of equipment and better-than-ever efficiencies in size of trains."
In a year-end grain report published Aug. 22, CN outlined other key highlights from the crop year, including:
- Shipping 7% more tonnage than the prior three-year-average;
- Beating the one-year record set in 2014-15 by 2%;
- Setting six new monthly shipping records between the peak months of September and March, when grain prices are highest;
- Introducing 200-car grain trains to improve efficiency and turn equipment back to the prairies faster, and
- Expanding the use of distributed power and air repeater cars to extend train length and improve train braking during extreme weather winter months.
MacDonald said the rail company also gave its customers what they were looking for by significantly expanding the commercial product offering.
"CN expanded commercial agreements that guarantee car supply in advance to our customers both large and small,” he said. “This commercially driven innovation includes reciprocal penalties, which drive accountability for both shippers and CN and allow our customers to make market-based decisions."
Last crop year, customers secured approximately 70% of CN's car supply in advance under commercial agreements subject to car commitment guarantees.
Investments in supply chain
Grain companies have continued to invest in the supply chain with the construction of nine new country elevators and another seven announced with completion dates in the next 18 months.
More rail capacity is needed in Vancouver, B.C., to meet forecasted demand that is being driven by new and ongoing investment in export grain terminals, CN said.
"Vancouver is a vital trade-oriented Canadian gateway and should be a top investment priority for the government's new national transportation corridor infrastructure fund," MacDonald said.
Looking ahead to 2017-18 crop year, CN said, working with its supply chain partners, it continues to seek every opportunity to bring even more efficiency to the grain transportation network.