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Rail News: Labor

UP forms auto racing-like pit crew to speed up run-through train duties at Nebraska yard


Gentlemen, start your engines — as in locomotives. Taking a tip from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, more commonly known as NASCAR, Union Pacific Railroad workers are employing pit crew principles to speed up train run-through processes at the Class I’s North Platte, Neb., yard.

Comprising electricians, machinists, firemen, oilers and car inspectors, UP’s “pit crews” use teamwork and lean management techniques to handle east and west run-through trains, which pass through the yard without stopping to add or remove rail cars. North Platte crews typically handle 55 to 60 run-through trains daily, and dwell time usually averages four hours on the east side and eight hours on the west.

Using teamwork principles learned from NASCAR pit crews, the workers recently handled a record 72 trains in a 24-hour period. Dwell time fell to nearly three hours on the east side and 6.5 hours on the west. The crews’ long-term goal is to handle 80 trains per day and shave about another hour off existing dwell times.

“We can’t easily build new track, so we’re leveraging lean methodologies to find effective ways to increase our velocity and train throughput,” said Cameron Scott, UP general superintendent of train services-North Platte operations, in a prepared statement.