Transport Coalition Sums Up 2014-15 Rail Service in Year-End Report

With the 2014-15 crop year coming to an end on July 31st, the Ag Transport Coalition has released its year-end report on rail performance in Western Canada. The data shows how despite not having a bumper crop on the prairies last fall, timeliness was still a challenge for railways servicing grain shippers.

CN Rail and CP Rail supplied 93 percent and 95 percent of shipper demand for hopper cars respectively, falling short by a total of approximately 23,000 cars (the cumulative difference between cars ordered and supplied for all 52 shipping weeks). The net unfulfilled demand at the end of July was approximately 1,400 cars — 320 for CN and 1,090 for CP.

In terms of timeliness, CN was consistently better than CP in delivering cars during the week for which they were ordered, supplying 62 percent of cars in their “want week” versus 36 percent by CP.

CN also outperformed CP in not leaving filled grain cars sitting at country elevators. The report notes shippers loading unit train and multi-car blocks generally expect a dwell time of 24 hours or less, meaning they try to load cars within a 24 hour window in order to avoid penalties from the railway. During the 2014-15 crop year, 33 percent of bulk grain shipments had a dwell time of less than 24 hours — 40 percent of CN’s dwell times were less than 24 hours while 22 percent of CP cars were picked up in that timeframe.

The report also outlines performance by corridor, overall hopper car supply and dwell times at destination terminals.

The Ag Transport Coalition says its data represents more than 90 percent of grain traffic in Western Canada, with data collection by QGI Consulting.

The group includes agriculture associations and grain companies that have come together to jointly fund a 5-year program aimed at increasing competitiveness in the agriculture supply chain by measuring rail performance indicators. The federal government is matching the industry funding through Growing Forward 2.

Members of the coalition include the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association, the Inland Terminal Association of Canada, the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, Pulse Canada, and the Western Grain Elevator Association.

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