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Agriculture shippers offer mixed feelings of rail industry

Photo by Kim Newburg.

by Ben Nuelle

Ag shippers provided mixed reviews of the nation’s largest railroad report card in the sixth annual Soy Transportation Coalition Railroad Report Card. For the fourth time, Union Pacific was regarded as the top performing railroad while BNSF Railway was rated as most improved.

Mike Steenhoek with the Soy Transportation Coalition.

“Their scores increased 26 percent over the course of a year so they’ve kind of re-asserted themselves in a place where they expect themselves to be. On the other hand, shippers expressed quite a bit of concern with several other railroads about their service. Particularly Canadian Pacific, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, and Norfolk Southern those are four of the railroads where there is quite a bit of frustration about the service.”

Steenhoek says the rail industry is extremely important to U.S. agriculture.

“The reason we devote a lot of time, energy and resources to assessing and monitoring the status of the rail industry because the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of areas of our country in which significant soybeans, corn and wheat are produced but they are far removed from their customers.”

Anonymous agriculture shipper operations of all sizes completed the same 11 question survey. The overall results across the seven railroads in 2015 were one percent lower than in 2014. The increased ratings provided to certain railroads was balanced by lower ratings for others. Survey respondents in 2015 rated railroads 17 percent higher in their ability to provide on time service and five percent higher in customer service.