News & Reviews News Wire Union Pacific service metrics show continued improvement

Union Pacific service metrics show continued improvement

By Bill Stephens | December 1, 2023

On-time performance for intermodal traffic is 94%, manifest traffic 80%, and bulk unit trains 90%, UP says in a customer update

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Freight train with yellow locomotives in mountains
A Union Pacific train heads downgrade at Woodford on California’s Tehachapi Pass on Feb. 11, 2019. David Lassen

OMAHA, Neb. — Union Pacific is touting service improvements in an update to customers.

“We know that delivering consistent and reliable service is what you expect, and we continue to make improvements to our service product. I’m pleased with the progress that we have sustained over the past few months,” Kenny Rocker, executive vice president of marketing and sales, wrote in an update to customers today.

The list of operations metrics reported to the Surface Transportation Board this week compares the railroad’s performance to mid-April of 2022.

Car Velocity: Improved 25% to 221 miles per day.
First Mile, Last Mile: Improved 2 points to 92%.
Trip Plan Compliance:
— Bulk (unit train): Improved 24 points to 90%.
— Manifest: Improved 21 points to 80%.
— Intermodal: Improved 24 points to 94%.

10 thoughts on “Union Pacific service metrics show continued improvement

  1. While trucks have the upper hand in convience and flexibility in being able to move goods and merchandise door to door directly, they are no match for what a freight train can do in moving large shipments. A 100 car freight train for example can move what wiuld take several hundred trucks to move as well as making our highways both unsafe and creating large traffic jams and cluttering up the highways. This holds especially true for intermodal whic no truck can handle only one container per truck. Freight trains will still continue to hold down and ship large bulk shipments across the country. Union Pacific is one of the oldest railroads in this country and one of the last to still retain it’s orginal name over the past 150 years or so of radical change, corporate takeovers and mergers that seen many fine railroads lose their idenity and logo. Union Pacific has managed to keep its name, history and logo intact. Let’s not forget that Union Pacific was one of the orginal partners in building the transcontinental railroad and opened the West to settlement and development and played a very important part in the growth of this nation. Hopefully as they turn themselves around and improve service and reliability they will once again be an important part and player in todays’ transportation picture and growth in the this nation’s economy and intrastructure.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  2. Very good news. It’s good to see UP doing better, especially since they now operate what is left of my old home railroad C&NW. Now if they can lose the fixation on only hauling super-profitable traffic and accept less profitable but still worthwhile traffic, I think they have a good chance for real success while growing some volume. There are just too many trucks on the road.

    Speaking of intermodal traffic, I attended the State Rail Conference in Madison last month and a UP representative spoke of plans to make necessary changes to eliminate the clearance barriers to double-stack traffic on the Chicago-Twin Cities mainline. They plan on increased container volume on this route in the next few years. He also indicated that the Sheboygan line is to remain open even if he power plant closes. Fine with me, my opinion is we don’t need another bike path along this line-the Interurban Trail largely parallels the route now.

    But perhaps even more interesting, he detailed UP’s Private Access Plan for private operators such as Brightline to use UP tracks for passenger service.
    For a lifelong rail passenger advocate like me (almost 70 years old) this was really exciting news. Passenger advocates should seriously consider any proposals involving UP to be run by a competent private firm (there are contractors like Keolis and Herzog as well as full-service operators like Brightline.

  3. UP was getting UPS trains over the road (LA to Willow Springs, Hodgskins IL) in less than 54 hours in a article in Trains Magazine several years ago. That included all down time. It may even be faster now. Manifest trains move at a much slower rate because they have multiple set-out and pick up locations and also have to be classified along the way,, maybe more than once, because they have multiple destinations as opposed to bulk and intermodal trains that can bypass yards and classification.

    The slower the train, the more it drags down the overall speed of the railroad. And with the 15,000 ft manifests being run by the railroads today, that is a lot of slow to overcome. Trucks have few similar problems. To compare trucks and trains is apple and oranges. But trucks will never beat the lower costs of transportation by train, only the convenience factor.

  4. UP is making an effort to improve. We should laud their efforts rather than nitpick in a way that dismisses the successes. If they don’t maintain these efforts to succeed then they deserve to be criticized. But they also deserve praise when they succeed. I would also like to know how their new plan to give decision making to the people who do the job is working out.

    I would like to see how they rate compared to the other two (BNSF and NS) who were required to submit weekly reporting to the STB as well as CPkc and CN in the United States. Then we would have a clear picture of what is going on in US rail transportation… Maybe Trains Magazine could collect that data and publish it for their readers and those interested in the state of the industry.

  5. 221 miles per day? According to Google maps you can ride a bicycle that far in 24 hours! Intermodal trains probably go 3 times that, so some cars must not go very far

    1. Just going to say the same thing. That’s an average of 9.2 miles per hour! Meanwhile, a truck on the road has an “…average speed of trucks on selected interstate highways… between 50 and 60 miles per hour (mph). The Federal Highway Administration studies traffic volume and flow on major truck routes by tracking more than 500,000 trucks.”

      A truck going from Chicago to Oakland on I-80 traverses 2,121.3 miles over 31 hours for a driver team. (Mapquest) A freight car going from Chicago to Oakland, on UP all the way, traverses about 2,300 miles. At 221 miles per day on average, the freight car takes 10.41 days, or 249.7 hours, to make the trip. Is that really an improvement? Remember the days of RI-DRGW-WP or CNW-UP-SP priority auto parts freights? 48 hours Chicago to the Bay Area and 50 hours Chicago to LA. They were the FORD FAST freights.

      In 1992, an old SP conductor lamented to me the removal of Track 1 over Donner by Ed Moyer. He noted the wagon trains made about 5 MPH over Donner. That’s only 4.2 MPH slower than an average UP freight today.

      221 miles per day on average is nothing to crow about.

    2. Just a couple comments in reply. You are not accounting for time in either the origin loading or destination unloading points. 221 miles per day would likely be an average of the total time a car spends in all statuses.
      Additionally, car time would more reasonably equivocate in many cases to trailer or container time, which is a lot more than just over-the-road time. Did you ever see the dozens of trailers parked at a big mill or factory awaiting loads? Who knows how many days they sit on average at many of them. A one-man truck operation with a single tractor and trailer would likely look a lot better of course, but you can’t just compare the rail car time to the time a particular trailer is moving on the highway, because a lot of the time, the trailer is not.
      Finally, just comparing the running times across the continent for hotshot trains, either back then or now, is not the typical freight car move. Most manifest traffic moves are bump-along with several trains handling, which has always been a major factor diminishing the relative efficiency and productivity of the steel wheel v. rubber tire.

    3. Joseph, you make a couple of assertions that do not hold water.

      First, an empty trailer sitting at an industry in Chicago waiting for a load is the same as an empty car in the local yard waiting to be spotted. A truck or local switcher will spot the trailer or empty boxcar for loading. The clocks starts ticking on the trip once either a truck connects to the trailer an hits the road or the local switcher pulls to the loaded boxcar.

      And second, hotshots did run fast. The closest to that speed today is an intermodal. That is still 200 hours at best.

      A better metric would be the median miles per day.

  6. It’s nice to see one of our oldest and largest railroads is improving. On time performance for both freight and passengers is important. If railroads want to increase business they must continue to improve or customers will continue to shift to trucks for all but their large volume or too big to go over highways traffic.

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