Clogged Rails Have California Bound Freight at Standstill


Railway giant BNSF announced that their “embargo” of certain California bound freight types will continue on into August. They’re doing what they can, they assure nervous shippers, to trickle out some special permits on a case-by-case basis. Blame for the cargo congestion emergency lies with the state of California. There isn’t a whole lot any of the rail companies can do.

California clogged with freight

Freight moving both directions through California has come to a total standstill. On top of the state’s ongoing ship unloading crisis, the Port of Oakland was crippled for an entire week by protesting independent truckers.

By declaring that they’re really employees, entitled to benefits, overtime and all the other privileges, independent contractors are out of business.

Overworked rail crews all across America were all set to go on strike to protest their working conditions until Imperial Leader Biden ordered them to keep the freight moving, while negotiators try to hammer out a deal. They grumbled about it but they’re still rolling the trains. Everywhere, that is, except into California.

Things are too messed up there for them to even begin to deal with and none of the problems are theirs. All they can do is wait. Meanwhile Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg acts like he’s in witness protection.

The California embargo started back on June 27. They aren’t moving any “automotive shipments as well as specific agricultural and industrial commodities” into the Golden State until some of the freight sitting there clogging things up gets moved somewhere else.

BNSF reports “its Southern Transcon remains congested” all across the Southwest.


Special permits

A spokesperson for the railway promises to work with their freight customers to open up any slot that they can finagle “BNSF will continue to carefully review and consider customer circumstances and will increase the number of permits issued weekly as network conditions improve.” They want to prioritize things already in transit.

We will maintain our focus in the weekly permit review process on the number of shipments already in the pipeline headed to California customer destinations and work to mitigate overfilled pipelines while allowing railcars to flow where shortages might exist.

The average wait time for the BNSF switching yard at Barstow, California last week was running 47.6 hours. While two days’ freight downtime is bad, that number is still better than the “56-hour average dwell time when the embargo began.

They had to stop all traffic to California “to prevent a meltdown during the week of the Fourth of July, when many crews take time off.

One of the reasons train crews recently voted overwhelmingly to strike is because the crews are overworked on every line, everywhere. Not Just for BNSF. Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad says their “unplanned recrew rate has remained high across its Chicago-Los Angeles Southern Transcon.

One in every five of their trains had to switch crews without notice, “short of their destinations.” Normally that runs around 5%. They admit that “congestion and high number of trains requiring an additional crew has exacerbated crew shortages in the Southwest and Southern California.” This problem isn’t theirs though. It’s up to the truckers and the shippers to clear the cargo through so more freight can roll on rail.


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