Agricultural, grain shippers rate railroad performance during 2016 harvest

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An eastbound Union Pacific-Ferromex grain train rolls through Gothenburg, Neb., in October 2016.
Chase Gunnoe
ANKENEY, Iowa — Agricultural and grain shippers recently rated railroad service performance during the 2016 harvest season as reported in the seventh annual Soy Transportation Coalition railroad report card.

For the fifth time, Union Pacific was reported as the top performing railroad, while survey respondents ranked Canadian Pacific in last place for the sixth consecutive year.

Agricultural shippers of various sizes and scale of operations completed the anonymous survey. In 2016’s report card, the survey period included the September to March harvest period. The surveys, which were distributed earlier this year, include eleven questions and are categorized by three main categories: on-time performance, customer service, and costs. For most questions, participants were asked to rate each of the seven Class I railroads on a scale from 1 to 10 with ten behind the highest and one being the lowest.

The coalition’s results include each Class I railroad in North America.

According to the coalition, agricultural shippers were primarily satisfied with the condition of rail networks and the ability of a number of railroads to accommodate 2016’s record harvest. Overall, survey participants described rail networks as well capitalized with available capacity.

According to a news release, BNSF Railway received lower scores from the previous year, particularly with regard to providing service commensurate with its cost. Some shippers believe weather related challenges throughout the Pacific Northwest affected the railroad’s ability to move products efficiently for export markets.

While the coalition’s report focuses on last year’s harvest season, shippers did make note of E. Hunter Harrison’s role as CEO at CSX and expressed concerned that CP’s service could be replicated at CSX.

“Agricultural shippers are concerned that the new operations approach being instituted at CSX will primarily benefit the owners of the company, rather than the customers. We are hopeful that future changes at the railroad will benefit both, says Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.

More information is available online.

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