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Rail disrupts grain transport

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Grain handlers have become frustrated by rail disruption during critical transport period.

Grain handlers cite concerns regarding CSX Transportation. Mike Steenhoek serves as executive director for the Soybean Transportation Coalition (STC). Steenhoek says the railway lacks customer service.

“You’re seeing things like delayed trains and irregular service, and it has frustrated a number of agricultural customers. It’s a particular concern – the fact that this is happening during harvest season. During this key time, you have all this volume coming through the pipeline, and you want to make sure the pipeline is able to accommodate that. With CSX, from the testimonials we’ve heard from Ag shippers, that ability is lacking as of now,” Steenhoek said.

The issues stem from a change in leadership earlier this year, according to Steenhoek. The National Grain and Feed Association, as well as other grain handlers, cited such concerns to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Wednesday. The organization suggested steps to improve the service.

“Some of the suggestions are: compelling CSX to provide more routine updates to the Surface Transportation Board in regard to how they’re accommodating the demands of their agricultural customers, establishing metrics and providing regular updates to the STB regarding whether or not they’re adhering to them,” Steenhoek said.

If such disciplinary actions prove ineffective, STB will look to implement more punitive actions. Steenhoek hopes the rail service can soon remedy the shortcomings.

“We’ll lose the reputation of being the most reliable supplier of agricultural products in the world marketplace, (if the shortcomings aren’t resolved in a timely manner),” Steenhoek said. “Soybeans have a particular vulnerability to this because 80% of our exports occur between the months of September and February. We have an important window to make sure we’re supplying all of our customer’s needs both domestic and international. CSX is just one of the railroads we utilize, so it’s not all concentrated with the particular railroad, but they are very important.”