MONTREAL, CANADA — In preparation for the 2018-19 crop year, the Canadian National Railway (CN) has created a grain transportation plan to effectively and efficiently transport grain throughout the coming year.
“At CN we are focused on getting it right for farmers and our grain customers, regaining the confidence of Canadian businesses and enhancing Canada’s reputation as a reliable export partner,” said JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer of CN. “This first annual public Canadian Grain Plan is the product of extensive consultation with key stakeholders and reflects the valuable feedback they have provided. CN believes that a collaborative approach to grain transportation will drive stronger results for the entire grain supply chain.”
The plan was prepared in accordance with the Canada Transportation Modernization Act, addressing issues related to the 2018-19 crop year. Assessing CN’s ability to move anticipated levels of grain during the coming year and identifying specific steps the company has and will take establish efficient and effective operational capacity.
CN will utilize available forecasts for the anticipated grain supply during the 2018-19 crop year to determine the volume of traffic to be moved as the baseline for the measures in the action plan.
Another step is establishing the maximum sustainable capacity of the supply chain for Western Canadian grain. CN noted that the country’s grain supply chain varies through the crop year and a number of factors place a limit on the supply chain.
“While most rail-served industries generate a steady flow of traffic, the grain harvest creates a unique transportation situation,” CN said. “It occurs over a short period of time, generating very large volumes of inventory, which cannot be all moved immediately after harvest.”
The company recognizes that during this peak period, “grain handling and trading-margin structure of the grain business is on average the most profitable for grain buyers and when farmer delivery pressure is the greatest.”
Third is establishing CN’s capacity. CN operates a fleet of approximately 11,500 hopper cars in Canada to move grain. The fleet is made up of Canadian government hopper cars, CN owned and leased cars and customer-supplied private cars that have been integrated into the common fleet.
The full fleet is deployed during peak times. When customer demand is low the cars are placed into storage. These fluctuations in fleet size reflect the seasonality of grain demand.
To further expand capacity and update the aging hopper fleet CN is acquiring 1,000 new generation high-cube grain hoppers cars over the next two years. Delivery of the new cars will begin in the second half of 2018-19 crop year, CN expects the immediate positive contribution with the additional capacity.
CN also is investing to expand network capacity in Western Canada in reaction to higher transportation demand and in an effort to improve infrastructure creating fluid transportation.
Lastly, CN is taking a new look at its grain marketing program. By consulting customers, CN developed a program that enables customers to secure priority car supply. The company will offer auction programs under which customers bid to secure capacity in the CN fleet.
“CN continues to welcome input on its plan from interested stakeholders and the plan will be updated to reflect changing conditions and circumstances as we move forward together,” Ruest said. “CN is well positioned to meet the transportation needs of its customers for the 2018-19 crop year and beyond.”