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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / BNSF extends embargo on California-bound carload traffic

BNSF extends embargo on California-bound carload traffic

By Bill Stephens | July 27, 2022

Operations are improving on the Southern Transcon, BNSF says, but limits on traffic will continue into August

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A westbound BNSF Railway merchandise train rolls through Cajon Pass in September 2021. Due to congestion, BNSF is limiting some types of carload traffic bound for California. (Bill Stephens)

FORT WORTH, Texas — BNSF Railway’s embargo of certain types of carload traffic bound for California has been extended into August as its Southern Transcon remains congested in the Southwest.

The embargo, which took effect on June 27, applies to automotive shipments as well as specific agricultural and industrial commodities.

“In response to our temporary permit embargo for some westbound traffic moving to destinations in California, we have seen decreased congestion through Southern California and improved network conditions. Incremental progress has been made in velocity across our Southern Region, with our most recent 7-day train velocity reaching a 90-day high,” BNSF said in a July 26 service advisory. “Improved conditions allowed us to issue 30% more permits for the next seven-day period starting Thursday, July 28, and we are positioned to build on positive momentum going into August.”

But the railroad said it would work with customers to reduce congestion in California as the embargo continues.

“BNSF will continue to carefully review and consider customer circumstances and will increase the number of permits issued weekly as network conditions improve,” the advisory says. “We will maintain our focus in the weekly permit review process on the number of shipments already in the pipeline headed to California customer destinations and work to mitigate overfilled pipelines while allowing railcars to flow where shortages might exist.”

Dwell at BNSF’s Barstow, Calif., yard remained elevated last week at 47.6 hours, although that’s an improvement over the 56-hour average dwell time when the embargo began.

In June, BNSF told federal regulators that the embargo was required to prevent a meltdown during the week of the Fourth of July, when many crews take time off.

BNSF’s unplanned recrew rate has remained high across its Chicago-Los Angeles Southern Transcon. About 20% of BNSF’s trains were recrewed short of their destinations on the California and Southwest divisions, while 18% required recrews on the Kansas Division. The normal recrew rate would be around 5% when the railroad is running well.

The congestion and high number of trains requiring an additional crew has exacerbated crew shortages in the Southwest and Southern California. The railroad continues to run well on its Northern Transcon and in the Powder River Basin, where it has an adequate number of crews.

Meanwhile, BNSF has been metering intermodal traffic as its terminals in Chicago remain congested due to customers being slow to pick up containers.

7 thoughts on “BNSF extends embargo on California-bound carload traffic

  1. Comes a day after article by the same author telling us how great BNSF Ry is. With comments on that article from readers like me suggesting it all might be crumbling.

  2. Considering how many Eastbound and Westbound trains I saw stacked up like pancakes between Barstow, CA and Kingman, AZ the week after 4th of July this doesn’t even sound possible. I’m talking dozens of trains just sitting end to end in both directions so that any train moving was having to do seesaws between control points on either main line. Just outside of Kingman itself on the 6th I counted 6 westbound trains, crewless, there were even instances of the BNSF having taken two trains and combining them into one single train. UP isn’t doing much better(from listening to the chatter on the scanner for trains between Beaumont and Mecca) so neither railroad has any ground to talk to be honest.

  3. Imagine what kind of situation BNSF would be in if they hadn’t done all those improvements with the bottlenecks in New Mexico and a few other spots. Yikes.

  4. The mismanagement of BNSF really stepped in it this time. Reminds me of when UP took over SP and knew better. I remember seeing former SP trains parked crewless in Texas; 5 or 6 trains waiting to get into Roseville being moved one train length at a time by a crew who would move one train get off and ride by car back to the next and so on. Saw the same in Ontario, Calif one night with intermodal trains heading east one block signal at a time. It took months for them to work it out. How long will it take for Management to stop being penny wise and big dollar foolish? And when will wall street figure out that this is a hell-of-a-way to run a railroad or an economy.

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