News & Reviews News Wire Union Pacific continues to embargo traffic in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

Union Pacific continues to embargo traffic in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

By Bill Stephens | January 4, 2023

Harsh winter weather that began last month snarls UP’s operations in the Midwest

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Union Pacific has embargoed traffic on lines shaded in blue in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on account of harsh winter weather. Union Pacific

OMAHA, Neb. – Union Pacific, citing ongoing harsh winter weather, is continuing an embargo it placed last week on all traffic to and from Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“A powerful storm system will swing through the Central U.S. early this week, bringing heavy snow, freezing rain and ice to Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Weather embargo UP130022 is still in effect,” the railroad said in a customer advisory on Monday.

UP said in a Dec. 29 customer advisory that it expected the embargo to remain in effect for at least 14 days.

“In response to the recent severe weather events and arctic temperatures that have impacted our operations across Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, as well as the additional snow and ice accumulation forecast to hit the region over the next week, Union Pacific is implementing catastrophic embargo #UP130022 for all traffic in and out of the region,” UP said in its Dec. 29 customer advisory. “The embargo will allow us to maintain fluidity as this segment of the network works to move volumes impacted by the weather event.”

UP had to contend with snow drifts as high as 15 feet that blocked tracks in Iowa and Minnesota last month, as well as frozen switches, according to a customer advisory.

None of the other Class I railroads operating in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – which include BNSF Railway, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific – have issued similar blanket embargoes in the area, according to the Association of American Railroads embargo system.

The only non-UP embargo in the three states was issued by BNSF on Nov. 17 to alleviate congestion at its auto ramp in St. Paul, Minn. The embargo was updated on Dec. 21 to include extreme weather conditions.

UP told customers to continue to expect delays in regions affected by winter storms, which also includes California, eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and southern Missouri.

At a hearing in Washington last month, Union Pacific’s increasing reliance on embargoes to clear congestion came under fire from shippers, labor unions, and members of the Surface Transportation Board.

Regulators in November ordered UP to explain why it has significantly increased its use of embargoes. With UP running short of train crews, the railroad has issued more than 1,000 embargoes so far this year in response to congestion, compared with just 27 in 2017 – the year before it adopted a lean Precision Scheduled Railroading operating model.

After the hearing, UP said it would stop issuing congestion-related embargoes under its pipeline management system. UP continues to issue embargoes related to congested customer facilities, however, according to the AAR embargo system.

15 thoughts on “Union Pacific continues to embargo traffic in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

  1. The lies and deceit, exaggeration and distortion, profiteering and pilfering of the rail industry knows no bounds. And the Class One CEO’s and Boards of Directors blame everyone and everything – hot weather, cold weather, fears of inflation, fears of recession, the west coast longshore workers, lower diesel fuel prices, threat of a national strike, lazy train and engine crews, their shippers, government red tape and regulation, you name it. But they never take responsibility. It is national disgrace and outrage that the freight rail industry is moving less freight than in 2006, and has done so every years since then. How can the rail industry say with a straight face that they are not responsible for this phenomenon? Their quest for low OR and high stock price in predicated upon it. The rail industry of this country is the principle cause of the contraction of the rail industry. The numbers do not lie. The figures are there for all to see. We need to call it for what it is. Every American should be outraged at how this great infrastructure is being squandered and wasted. It is time – like most all railroads of the world and All other transportation infrastructure in the USA, for the Class One carriers to be publicly owned! Ron Kaminkow, Organizer, Railroad Workers United.

    1. Class one carriers are publicly owned. The only privately owned C1 is BNSF, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.

      I do agree with your premise, though, but I am afraid what goes around, comes around and the management of the Class Ones have proven that Wall Street has a bigger impact on them than the customers for which their enterprises exist. That is why Congress must give the STB some regulatory authority (not like the days of the ICC) to intervene in stalemates between Customer/Shippers and the C;ass Ones is needed. The Management of the Class Ones have shown they don’t care by their actions. Their motto is, “Damn the torpedoes (customers), Full Speed Ahead!!!”

  2. You have to wonder how so many “smart” people (UP up to the SP merger) could screw up a good railroad. But they did and continue to do so. PSR is obviously playing a big part. Route reductions and terrible actions toward their T&E employees may have contributed to big money for investors but, at a terrible cost to their franchise. And that stated purpose of a 55% O R appears to still be a driving force as it seems every day there is another black eye on their service (or should we say non-service). The chicken and cow feed corn fiasco again reared its ugly head in spite of a previous order from the STB and its chairman still looking down their nose. Well, at least it is entertaining.

  3. Its quite evident that rationalizing the rail network also plays a part in this meltdown. Alternative routes allowed trains to pass bad weather and continue delivering freight. So you can add that to PSR and railroads not giving a damn about keeping employees during slow downs.
    UP is going to have give up the idea of a O R being in the mid 50’s, get their engines out of storage to power trains at track speed and come to grips with crews being treated better.

  4. I remember a brutal winter back in my C&NW days when the corporate slogan came out that “Snow was no Excuse” I think I still may have one of the pins.
    Todays railroading can use snow as being an excuse.

  5. No precision.

    No schedule.

    No railroading in the manner the pros in the Trains Community would have done it.

    Perhaps the PSR acronym is more aptly described as:

    Perpetual Shortage of Railroaders

    Perpetual Shortage of Real assets (track capacity and motive power)

  6. The only way the Omaha clown circus can be remedied is when enough influential shareholders raise the burner heat on UP’s board to get them to address the obvious shortcomings.

    Frankly, given the adverse attention UP is receiving from the STB and now in certain areas of the media, one would hope there is at least some conversation taking place.

  7. Once upon a time, freight and passenger trains operated period. Maybe late but they ran. Now, if it looks like a possibility of weather they shutdown everything. Crazy.

    1. God forbid that we would have to go to war with this type of leadership. The American can-do spirit is now a memory.

  8. Y’know what? Forget killing baby Hitler, I’d rather kill baby Hunter Harrison. Everything has become all about operating ratios ever since Hunter Harrison came onto the scene, and now the railroads are going the way of McDonnell Douglas. (Technically the articles saying “It’s going to end up like Boeing” should say “It’s going to end up like McDonnell Douglas” as McDonnell Douglas’ shareholders took control of Boeing) It’s a good thing that many short line railroads, don’t do things like this since the short lines are mostly run by railroaders rather than shareholders.

    1. I didn’t know that about the Boeing merger. I should have, as I was a fan of the DC-series airliners.

      There are other cases where the surviving company took the name of a company swallowed up. Today’s Chase Bank is the corporate survivor not of Chase Manhattan Bank, but of the lessor-known Chemical Bank New York Trust Company.

    2. …but unfortunately the shortlines have to depend on the Class Is to move their cars.

  9. And rail was the way to get around for freight and passenger in bad weather.
    I guess bottom line and operating ratio are far more important than maintaining and growing business. Upside down economics.

  10. Apparently UPRR gets its weather report from a different source than I use. I looked up the forecast for Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for the coming week. Pretty much a study in absolutely nothing. Not even average winter weather, more mild than that in temperature and precipitation.

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