Machinery and Oversized Shipments

No matter the industry, BNSF has the equipment and expertise to ship your oversized loads safely and efficiently. From aviation parts and equipment to wind energy products and factory machinery, customers trust BNSF for heavy loads on long and short hauls.

Browse the tabs below for more details on machinery and oversized shipments with BNSF.

Determine if your shipment is an oversized load according to BNSF by using the following criteria:

Oversized Weights:
286,000 lbs. on a 4 axle car
480,000 lbs. on a 8 axle car

12-axle or greater cars may require clearance, as they typically need empty buffer cars for weight distribution.
Height more than 17' above top rail
Width more than 11' at any point
Load extends beyond end sill of car

Note: The above specifications apply to BNSF only, other rail carriers may have different definitions of oversized loads.

Frequently Asked Questions

Review the FAQs to learn how to ship machinery and oversized loads.


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  1. Is my load oversized or of excessive weight?
  2. What is the process to move a load with excess dimension or weight?
  3. Which railroad do I contact to obtain rates, request cars or obtain a clearance?
  4. How do I submit my lading information to obtain a railroad clearance?
  5. What happens once I submit my information for clearance?
  6. What are the next steps once BNSF determines my special train shipment can physically clear on the railroad?
  7. What is an idler, and how do I know if it is required for my shipment?
  8. How do I request a railcar?
  9. How do I know if I need a heavy-duty flatcar?
  10. Who is responsible for loading, tie-down and securement of loads?
  11. How do I release a oversized load?
  12. What are special train charges?
  13. When are special train charges applied?
  14. When is circuitous routing required?

1. Is my load oversized or of excessive weight?

Excess oversized loads are described as any load on a railcar exceeding 17 feet above the top of rail and/or 11 feet wide. Additionally, loads that overhang the end sills of the railcar are classified as oversized loads. Easy access to our weight restriction maps lets you know if your shipment is of excessive weight while on BNSF. Shipments exceeding provided parameters are subject to operating schedules and windows and therefore subject to delays not otherwise affecting normal carload shipments.

2. What is the process to move a load with excess dimension or weight?

The process begins with the shipper following the step by step guide for shipping oversized loads. See oversized shipments to view this process.

3. Which railroad do I contact to obtain rates, request cars or obtain a clearance?

The shipper must receive clearance, obtain rates and request cars from the originating railroad. In the case of a load originating on a shortline railroad, the first linehaul or roadhaul carrier should be contacted.

4. How do I submit my lading information to obtain a railroad clearance?

Complete the Oversized Clearance Request Form, by logging into our website. For instructions on how to register on our website or access the form, see oversized shipments.

5. What happens once I submit my information for clearance?

The BNSF Clearance Department reviews the submitted information. Once a determination is made, the customer will be notified via e-mail.

6. What are the next steps once BNSF determines my special train shipment can physically clear on the railroad?

Obtaining approval for physical clearance DOES NOT constitute operational clearance or authority for the shipment described in the clearance request to move on the BNSF network. Once physical clearance has been obtained, your shipment must be submitted for operational and risk management approval. Contact your marketing representative for more information prior to initiating loading or movement.

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7. What is an idler, and how do I know if it is required for my shipment?

An idler is an empty car placed between your shipment and the next load. Idlers are required for shipments that overhang the end sills for the railcar and/or are of excessive weight as determined by BNSF's Engineering Department. Idlers can be requested when requesting the heavy-duty flatcar.

8. How do I request a railcar?

  1. To request heavy-duty flatcars, complete the Oversized Equipment Request Form by logging into our website. For instructions on how to register on our website or access the form, see oversized shipments.
  2. To order a standard flatcar, please contact Equipment Distribution.

9. How do I know if I need a heavy-duty flatcar?

The Clearance Department will make this determination based on the characteristics of the load as submitted in the Oversized Clearance Request Form. This information will be included in the proposal response from BNSF's Clearance Department.

10. Who is responsible for loading, tie-down and securement of loads?

The shipper is responsible for loading, tie-down and securement of shipments to the railcar. BNSF Mechanical offices can provide requirements or a copy of the Open Top Loading Manual can be purchased from the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Please see the contact page for contact information.

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11. How do I release an oversized load?

All loaded oversize shipments must receive securement inspection and measurements prior to shipment from the originating rail carrier. Please see Step 5 - Receive Inspection for contact information.

12. What are special train charges?

Special train charges are applied to moves that require special handling. Written authorization for special train service is required in advance of train movement. Special train service and charges are in addition to regular freight charges.

13. When are special train charges applied?

Special train charges are assessed for one or more of the following reasons…but are not limited to the following:

  • High combined center of gravity, in excess of 106 inches ATR
  • Speed restricted cars or restrictions placed on shipments limiting speed to less than 45 mph
  • Extreme width of load over 13 feet, 2 inches
  • Multiple speed, or stop and walk, restrictions

14. When is circuitous routing required?

Circuitous routing can be required when a load is of excessive size or weight. The routing is necessary to move the load safely to destination. A circuitous routing will affect the freight rate and transit time.

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To obtain a rate for machinery and oversized, you can use BNSF's online pricing tools  or contact a market manager below.

  Name Contact
If a rate is not available via the Carload Shipping Advisor, contact a BNSF representative using the Rate Request form. (Machinery with wheels)
Request a new rate
Tel: 817-867-6838
(Machinery without wheels)
Request a new rate
Tel: 817-867-6514

Pricing Tools and Resources

Before scheduling an oversized shipment, please read the following guidelines:

Clear It

For shipments that are oversized, your clearance request lets us officially initiate the process to confirm that our infrastructure can handle your load. To submit your clearance request, log in to BNSF.com, go to the PLAN tab, and select Oversized Clearance Request. We evaluate primary and secondary routes and let you know your best shipping option. You'll also receive a proposal number that you'll need through the rest of the process. Each request includes a $1,000 fee, which is refundable on all proposals that become actual loads on BNSF, within one year. Read more about the Pay-for-Proposal fee refund.

Note: Clearance requests must be submitted to the originating rail carrier. To submit your clearance request, you will need to establish your loading and unloading sites, then log in to BNSF.com.

Request Cars (2-4 weeks before shipment)

The next step is to request the railcars you'll need. Log in to BNSF.com and select the PLAN tab. To request a heavy-duty railcar, select Oversized Equipment Request Form. You'll need your proposal number and the railcar series or equipment car initial and number. To request a standard machinery flatcar, select the Railcar Equipment Request Form.

Note: Availability of railcars is subject to current supply conditions, so please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.

Load It (2 days before shipment)

Next, you'll need to load and secure your railcar according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Open Top Loading Rules. Contained within the AAR rules are specific diagrams for loading configurations, as well as the general rules that you must follow. To obtain a copy of the AAR Open Top Loading Rules Manual, visit the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. website, call 800-544-RAIL or e-mail pubs@ttci.aar.com.

Note: It is the shipper's responsibility to correctly load and secure the load.

Submit Instructions (2 days before shipment)

Proper shipping instructions are essential for BNSF to provide the correct transportation services and invoice at the appropriate rate. To submit your shipping instructions, log in to BNSF.com and select the SHIP tab. You'll need the appropriate rate authority. For oversized loads, you'll also need your proposal number, and you'll need to select a special handling condition of "Extreme Dimension."

Note: You can also submit shipping instructions via EDI, through voice activation by calling 1-888-428-2673, option 3,2,2, or through the rail industry website www.steelroads.com.

Get Inspected (2 days before shipment)

All loaded oversized shipments must be approved before the shipment can receive final clearance and be moved. For shipments with an eight or more axle railcar, contact TTS via e-mail at inspections@railengineer.com; for shipments with less than an eight-axle railcar, contact a BNSF mechanical foreman.

Not Rail Served?

Please select equipment from the drop down.



Bulkhead Flatcar

Some of the commodities tranported include structural steel, pipe, steel plate, and some lumber products.

Bulkhead Flatcar
Specifications Table Diagram (56ft)  Diagram (60ft)  Diagram (62ft)  Diagram (66ft)  Diagram (70ft) 
Inside Length 56.8 ft 60.8 ft 62 ft 66 ft 70 ft
Inside Width 9.3 ft to 10.5 ft 8.2 ft to 10.6 ft 9.3 ft to 10.6 ft 10 ft 8.8 ft
Lading Capacity 143,500 to 196,000 lbs 178,500 to 186,000 lbs 163,400 to 205,100 lbs 183,500 to 188,600 lbs 173,800 to 181,200 lbs

** All materials are provided for informational purposes only; BNSF makes no warranty regarding accuracy and shall not be liable for any errors and/or omissions.  Materials are subject to change at any time without notice or publication.  Please consult with the Equipment Department for the most up to date and accurate data.

See all types of equipment.

Private Equipment Policy

The following section contains guidelines and information for the use of privately marked equipment in which BNSF is the origination line-haul carrier.

Private Equipment Guidelines

Private rail equipment must meet the Association of American Railroads' Circular OT-5 for Rules Governing the Assignment of Reporting Marks, Mechanical Designations, and Use. Privately marked equipment must obtain loading authority from the origin line-haul carrier and the equipment must be registered via the OT-5 process that is administered by Railinc. To register, you will need your CIF number, proper UMLER information and the car numbers to be registered. For more information, please visit Railinc's Loading Authority (OT-5) web site.

  1. Prior to securing privately marked equipment to be loaded at a location where BNSF is the origin line haul carrier, customers/controlling entities must discuss equipment options with their BNSF Sales representative.
  2. Private equipment controlling entities must submit an application for loading authority (OT-5) via the RailInc registration system. Applications must be approved prior to the privately marked equipment being moved for loading at BNSF line haul origin locations. Cars can be pre-approved via the RailInc registration system as well.
  3. BNSF may decline an OT-5 application for multiple reasons, including safety, mechanical factors or inadequate storage. Click here to see BNSF Mechanical requirements.
  4. Private equipment controlling entities are required to manage the flow (pipeline) of empty equipment moving to BNSF origin line haul locations or connecting carrier serving locations to preserve network fluidity.
  5. BNSF may require private equipment controlling entities to move equipment off-line at their expense to preserve network fluidity.
  6. Private equipment is subject to charges for equipment held for loading and unloading, and also equipment held for purposes other than loading or unloading.
  7. BNSF may terminate previously granted loading authority as a result of guidance of the AAR Interchange Rules, expiration date of lease connected to original OT-5 application, equipment becoming over age, inadequate storage, mechanical or safety issues.
  8. Click here to see OT-5 Frequently Asked Questions
OT-5 FAQs
  1. Why is BNSF scrutinizing my OT-5 application?
    Managing evolving network and operating conditions requires BNSF to closely review all requests we receive to add new equipment to our system and determine, among other factors, what impact individual requests could have on network fluidity, capacity, service and velocity. We are also engaged in an effort to address existing non-compliance on BNSF and across the industry of the OT-5 registration process (unregistered cars).
  2. Once I have provided storage and mechanical information, what allows you to decline my application?
    BNSF considers multiple factors when reviewing OT-5 applications. Applications can be declined for reasons including: safety, mechanical, lack of verifiable track storage space, or a combination of resulting factors that these reasons may cause.
  3. How does BNSF define "adequate" or "inadequate" storage?
    BNSF evaluates whether adequate storage exists by reference to the details and context of each individual OT-5 application. This includes, among other factors, the storage location(s) proposed by the applicant, the storage location entity's ability to confirm the storage capability represented on the application, the type of cars on the application and their anticipated use on the BNSF network.
  4. How do I protest an OT-5 rejection?
    BNSF will provide an explanation for all OT-5 application rejections. If an application has been declined, the application can be re-submitted after all details provided in the rejection notice have been resolved to BNSF's satisfaction. Any question concerning rejected applications should be directed to your BNSF Sales representative.
  5. What if I don't register or apply for OT-5?
    Under AAR Circular OT-5, approval MUST be obtained from the loaded origin line-haul carrier prior to loading private cars. BNSF reserves the right to address non-registered cars on an individual basis.

SAFETY IS BNSF'S MAIN PRIORITY

The following is not all inclusive however equipment must comply with all of the following key Mechanical Requirements:

  1. All interchange freight car owners must subscribe to the AAR Interchange Rules and be listed in FindUs.Rail.
  2. Cars must comply with and be maintained, by the owner, per the AAR Office and Field Manual Rules.
  3. All AAR Field Manual Rules (Sections A.1 and A.2 defects along with any component obsolete or prohibited in interchange) must be repaired or replaced prior to placement of the cars on BNSF.
  4. All cars must have yellow FRA 224 compliant reflectorization with the application date registered in Umler (no grandfathered material allowed).
  5. Angle cocks located below the coupler as shown in AAR Field Manual Rule 5 Figure 14 are prohibited.
  6. Greater than 268,000 Pound Gross Rail Load Freight Cars of any car type must meet one of the following criteria:
    1. Cars are approved by the AAR per Specification S-286 or
    2. Cars are approved by the AAR per Specification S-259 and the following is met: Cars must be equipped with constant contact side bearings, preferably long travel.
    3. Cars must be registered with the proper Star Code.
  7. 286,000 Pound Gross Rail Load Freight Cars of any car type less than 44 feet 11 inches in overall length must have route specifically approved by BNSF due to bridge loading concerns. The following link can assist in route selections http://bnsf.com/customers/where-can-i-ship/maps/
  8. Flat Cars of any type and capacity must be equipped with constant contact side bearings. Long travel constant contact side bearings are preferred.
  9. Covered Hoppers must have outlet gates that seal completely. The sealing member must be maintained in good condition and not allow product to bypass the gaskets/seals and leak onto the ground. All gates must be of a positive lock design with security seal capability.
  10. Cars equipped with one or more rotary couplers must be equipped with anti-gravity locks on both ends.
  11. All Cars must meet AAR and FRA Safety Appliance Standards.
  12. Gondola, and bulkhead flat cars must be equipped with crossover platform and associated safety appliances on both ends.
  13. Bottom dump coal hopper cars equipped with door line air hose must have this hose in the "low" configuration as to not block the crossover platform.
  14. Tank cars must be equipped with a Group R "weather resistant" slack adjuster

Heavy Duty Car

To reserve a heavy duty car contact TTX or Kasgro prior to making arrangements for shipment of freight.

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Become a New BNSF Customer

Begin shipping with BNSF quickly and easily. We will need the following information to get you started with BNSF:

  • Commodities you will be shipping. Please use our STCC/Commodity Lookup tool for exact commodity information.
  • Origin and destination for your shipment.
  • Amount you will be shipping.
817-867-6223 or
Pricing/Rates
Area Name Contact
Rate Requests Get a rate quickly with our easy online price lookup tool Carload Shipping Advisor 

Rolling machinery and wind power
Tel: 817-867-6838
(All other machinery)
Request a new rate
Tel: 817-867-6514
Clearance
General inquiries* Tel: 888-428-2673,
option 4, 3
Fax: 817-352-7134
eBusiness
Support Tel: 888-428-BNSF (2673),
option 4, 1 (Available 24x7)

*You need a PIN to call and inquire about oversized shipments.

Shipping Questions

For questions regarding your shipment, billing or service Customer Support
888-428-2673, option 4, 3
For questions regarding equipment 888-428-2673, option 4, 4
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