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Class I report card confirms ag shippers' frustration with rail service, soy coalition says


Union Pacific Railroad reclaimed the top spot in the Soy Transportation Coalition's (STC) fifth annual Railroad Report Card. The top ranked railroad in 2011 and 2012, UP was second last year behind CSX Transportation.

Norfolk Southern Railway assumed second place in this year's rankings after taking third last year. The rest of the 2014 customer satisfaction rankings show CSX in third, CN in fourth, Kansas City Southern in fifth, BNSF Railway Co. in sixth and Canadian Pacific in seventh.

The rankings are based on a survey completed anonymously by agricultural shippers of various sizes and scale of operations, according to the STC. Survey takers are asked to rate the Class Is' on-time performance, customer service, cost and other performance factors on a 1-10 scale, with 10 the highest score.

The 2014 survey had the highest number of participants in the report card's history, STC officials said in a press release. UP was rated first in six out of the 11 questions, while CP received a last place ranking in each, they said.

On average, railroads received a 14 percent lower score than in 2013. Respondents rated railroads 28 percent lower in their ability to provide on-time service – the largest area of decline from the previous year, STC officials said.

Overall, the survey revealed ag shippers' "substantial frustration" with rail service this year, they said. A number of factors have contributed to declining rail performance, including the severe winter weather, a significant 2013 harvest, and competition from crude oil and other commodities that rely on rail transportation.

"Rail service challenges have been a significant topic of discussion throughout this year," said Pat Knouff, STC's chairman and a soybean farmer from Minster, Ohio. "The decline in rail service has understandably raised concern among agricultural shippers and farmers. In a very tight margin industry, the decline in rail service can be the difference between farmers making a profit and suffering a loss."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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