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20 Dec 2017

Long Train Running

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is currently investigating the safety impacts of operating increasingly long freight trains on U.S. railroads. Due to a number of accidents and recent derailments, the FRA is increasing their inspections, and the Government Accountability Office will launch a study on the impacts of longer trains. CSX, in particular, has increased its train length by more than 400 feet since March 2017, when CEO, Hunter Harrison, came on board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) rail division head, David Bucher, told Reuters that “train lengths are increasing across the country. It is becoming more and more common, not just with CSX.” Currently, train length is unregulated and any likelihood of regulating it would face stiff opposition. “Longer trains maximize crews, locomotives, fuel and other resources,” said Union Pacific spokeswoman, Raquel Espinoza. The NTSB, FRA and STB do not collect data on train length, except for specific accidents or mediations.

Regardless of what is shipped or how many cars it takes, AMTR has seen problems not only in safety, but in the invoicing of product. Many shippers combine different commodities to build trains, and, in some cases, train contents may be intended for more than one consignee at the destination. Computers often take an “all or nothing” approach when assigning a rate to a train with a specific amount of cars. Some railroads offer over a dozen rates for different car contingencies, and others may draw a line in the sand with a minimum. Errors may occur on both sides of the EDI process, and all it takes is one mistake to incur a significant overcharge. A trained eye, combined with human logic, will catch this type of problem.

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