WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — BNSF and Canadian Pacific have until June 27 to tell the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) how they plan to resolve their backlogs of grain car orders. In addition, the railroads will have to provide the STB weekly status reports pertaining to grain car service.

The STB made the decision on June 20, saying that although the railroads have submitted data on progress toward reducing grain car order backlogs and delays, it was very concerned about the limited time period until the next harvest, the large quantities of grain yet to be moved and the railroads’ paths toward meeting their respective commitments.

By June 27, STB said the railroads must provide:
1. CP is directed to report its plan to resolve the backlog of grain car orders on its U.S. network, including its timeline for doing so, and its plan for ensuring a fluid and reliable interchange of loaded and empty grain cars with Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCP&E).
2. BNSF is directed to report an updated plan to resolve the backlog of grain car orders on its network, including its timeline for doing so.
3. CP and BNSF must provide by state, the running total of outstanding grain orders at the end of the week, the total number of orders cancelled by shippers for the week, the number of orders cancelled by CP or BNSF for the week, and the average number of days late for all outstanding grain car orders. CP and BNSF shall also report the number of cars allocated to grain car service each week, including the number of private cars in service. CP’s report shall include the number of grain cars requested by RCP&E and the number of cars furnished by CP on a weekly basis. These reports will be required for each carrier until it resolves its backlog of unfilled grain car orders. 

“We are disappointed that we have not met our customers’ expectations, but we have made significant progress toward substantially satisfying outstanding orders and we will be prepared for this fall’s harvest,” Michael Trevino, a BNSF spokesman, told Bloomberg news agency. “We will continue working with the STB and will continue frequent communications with all of our agriculture customers.”

CP Spokesman Ed Greenberg told the news agency that it “continues to look closely” at the STB’s order and “will be responding directly to the agency.”

Canada experienced similar rail problems following a record crop, and the government has imposed minimum shipping requirements with financial penalties.

Early this year, the STB said it started hearing of service problems across significant portions of the nation’s rail network, particularly on the CP and BNSF systems. During a public hearing on April 10, farmers and representatives of agriculture producers described severe, negative effects  resulting from backlogged grain car orders and delayed shipments of loaded grain cars.

Since the hearing, BNSF and CP have provided the STB data on a regular basis regarding the status of their operations and their progress in resolving service issues. But given the upcoming harvest, the STB wants more information from the railroads.