How Union Pacific Measures Train Performance

Woody Sutton, VP Manifest Products, says trip plan compliance is absolutely critical in premium product like the Express Lane service for perishables. This innovative service provides guaranteed transit times from California's San Joaquin Valley and the Pacific Northwest to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and central Florida.

Depending on origins and destinations Express Lane offers seventh through tenth morning availability, costs in the neighborhood of $7,000 a car (roughly a $2,000 discount to an equivalent truck rate) and offers rebates of up to $200 of the car does not make plan. So the stakes for both beneficial owner of the goods and the railroads are substantial.

These UP measures can be applied by anybody, though most particularly the shortline originating the load (nearly half of all Express Lane shipments originate on UP connecting shortlines). The biggest requirement is for an active, measurable Interline Service Agreement between UP and the shortline establishing the time, place, and frequency of interchange.

It is highly recommended the shortline measure its own performance according to these benchmarks. Only then can shipper, shortline and class 1 be sure everything is done According to Plan, on time every time without fail.

The Measures:

  1. Do we have a Safety Plan? The ASLRRA has a dandy one for shortlines, already blessed by the FRA.
  2. Did we run the train on time? That is to say cars are placed and pulled to meet customer expectation and loads and documentation are available at interchange to meet the ISA requirements.
  3. Did the train have the right cars on it? If you've got a waybill in the works but the car wasn't pulled for some reason, you have a failure. Also if a car is pulled ahead of its documentation.
  4. Did we use the resources efficiently? Equipment is expensive and to have it sitting around "just in case" robs somebody else of a load.
  5. Did we do it safely? Measure things like reportable injuries (the ASLRRA has shortline conversion factor to measure 200 man-hour equivalents), grade crossing incidents, and derailments.

In sum, the economic incentives - premium rates for premium service - are enough to take points out of the operating ratio without draconian measure on the expense side of the ledger. Thanks, Woody, for the insights.


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