(source: Progressive Railroading 08/09/2017)
UP was regarded as the top performing railroad for the fifth time. Survey respondents ranked CP in seventh place for the six year in a row, STC officials said in a press release.
The survey of 2016 Class I performance was completed by agricultural shippers of various size and scale of operations. For the 2016 report card, the survey period was adjusted to cover the entire September-to-March period when a high percentage of the U.S. soybean and grain harvest is transported.
The survey questions were sent in April and completed and returned by the end of June. The survey period for 2015 was September through November. By accommodating a higher percentage of the 2016 harvest, this year’s report card is a better reflection of the railroads’ performance, STC officials said.
UP ranked first in seven out of the 11 survey questions. CP ranked last in eight of the 11 questions.
Based on overall ratings, the other Class Is ranked as follows: Norfolk Southern Railway, second place; CSX, third; BNSF Railway Co., fourth; CN, fifth; and Kansas City Southern Railway, sixth.
“The STC’s annual Railroad Report Card is designed to help assess the performance of railroads in meeting the needs of their agricultural customers,” said STC Chairman Gerry Hayden, a soybean farmer from Kentucky. “The feedback expressed in this year’s report card suggests railroads are doing some things right, but that there are a number of opportunities for improvement.”
Via survey responses and verbatim comments, agricultural shippers expressed some satisfaction with the rail network’s condition and the ability of a number of railroads to accommodate the historic 2016 harvest. Overall, the rail network was described as well capitalized with available capacity.
However, respondents overall expressed some frustration with rail rates that many consider an increasing obstacle to competition in agriculture.
STC Executive Director Mike Steenhoek said survey respondents remain concerned about CP’s performance.
“We are encouraged that the new leadership of Canadian Pacific has emphasized outreach to their key customers, including agriculture,” Steenhoek said. “We are hopeful this increased customer engagement will translate into rail service soybean and grain shippers require to remain profitable.”
Earlier this year, CP Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison left the railroad to become CEO at CSX. Keith Creel succeeded Harrison as president and CEO at CP.