April 14, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

Railroads, like airlines, truckers and maritime providers continue to feel the effects of supply chain hiccups.

Union Pacific, not immune to service challenges, notified its customers this week that it will remove up to 3% of UP-controlled cars from its network starting April 18th and may start metering traffic. This will allow the company to catch up on a backlog of congestion in yards, work toward rebalancing its motive power to areas where needed and up its operational performance.

According to UP Sales and Marketing head Kenny Rocker, operating inventory levels continue to rise on a daily basis. In a message to UP shippers, Rocker said "we are now asking for your help to further reduce the number of active rail cars on our network. We have already identified and notified those customers who can help us manage the current congestion by reducing their rail car inventories. If we do not see reductions to the operating inventory through their voluntary efforts, then we will begin metering traffic after April 18th. This action, along with our other ongoing initiatives, will give us the ability to work through our backlog and improve the service for all our customers," according to Rocker. "We are actively monitoring the progress of our operating inventory levels and will remain in close contact with you to keep you updated."

Challenges from mother nature along with crew shortages in parts of the UP network have resulted in additional delays, according to a post on the company website and resulted in operating inventory continuing to climb over the past two months.

One such incident this month shut down the Union Pacific Sunset east-west main line for multiple days near Marathon in South Texas when a wooden trestle bridge was damaged by fire. 

UP announced that it has taken the following steps:

  • Locomotives Supply –  50 locomotives have been added to active fleet since January and an additional 100 locomotives are being supplied.

  • Crew Supply - While the current demand for crews is high, UP admitted it is facing a tight labor market and it is recruiting heavily to alleviate crew shortages in certain locations.  The company is streamlining its onboarding process to get new hires on the job faster. There are 450 employees currently in training to graduate in early summer with more in the pipeline. About 80 crew members have been relocated to support labor demand in specific locations across the system.

  • Operating Inventory – UP is removing 2% to 3% of UP-controlled cars from the network across multiple commodity groups. Unit train customers are being contacted daily to maintain fluidity and reduce the number of cars on the system. Inland intermodal ramp are being monitored to make sure supply chain partners have the ability to dray their shipments off the ramps on arrival.

Photo credit: Union Pacific