Going with the grain to serve elevators big and small
Every year BNSF moves enough grain to supply 730 million people with a year’s supply of bread – talk about a “flourishing” industry! As a western railroad, much of our network serves farmland, positioning us to take on the hustle and bustle of harvest with efficiency and a standard of customer care that’s unmatched.
The growth of our grain shuttle service is tied to our commitment to the agriculture industry. In 2004, BNSF created the rail industry’s first-ever team of ombudsmen. Dedicated to serving our agriculture customers as a point of contact with the railroad, ombudsmen have established their roots across our network to represent BNSF and build relationships with the people they serve.
Our shuttle trains (those with 110 hoppers) run between a loading origin and an unloading destination. Only stopping for fuel and to change crews between the start and end of the route, the grain shuttle system makes for a quick turnaround of available equipment ready to serve the next customer.
Matt Jensen, manager, Agriculture Operations Support and ombudsman, explained the history of our shuttle trains: “Starting with four shuttle loading facilities in 1996 to serving 265 shuttle loading facilities today, we’ve seen tremendous growth. There’s a demand for better, tailored service.”
As farmers race against the looming threat of freeze to harvest their crops, our crews race against the clock to get the grain moved to destination in just a few days. Shuttle services couldn’t be as efficient as they are without the teamwork between farmers, elevators and co-ops, and our crews.
“To keep our grain shuttles constantly running, we run on a time-bound schedule,” Mike Ray, manager, Economic Development, noted. “Typically, the shuttle’s origin location, often an elevator or co-op, can load the shuttle in about 15 hours or less, which keeps the shuttle moving with minimized dwell from customer to customer.”
Each grain shuttle pulls 110 hoppers and takes three to four days to reach its destination. Because shuttles are constantly on the move to serve the next elevator, farmers and co-ops have incentive to move more grain with a quicker turnaround.
“Our grain shuttle service is a one-year commitment surrounding a train being loaded every time we bring a customer an empty,” Susan Stockstill, manager, Marketing, Agriculture Commodities, said. “Before the shuttle arrives at its destination, we need to know the next loading destination. We continue to move the shuttle for the customer throughout their one-year contract, making this system highly efficient and cost effective.”
BNSF was the first Class I railroad to implement shuttle services and is proud to haul 80% of our grain through this unique method of transportation.
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If you’re looking for a highly efficient and cost-effective way to transport your agricultural products, learn more about BNSF grain shuttles on BNSF.com.
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