What are the long term positive effects of PSR for rail shippers?

Jim Blaze

There is not a lot of what would pass for as solid evidence about direct shipper benefits from PSR. That’s surprising since Canadian National “results” should have by now matured as a Harvard Business Case Study given the time that’s passed since the first E. Hunter Harrison “training classes” were given now more than a decade ago. Documentation of the internal RR corporate benefits are plentiful, seen in almost every quarterly investor report as slides. But improvements like “promised scheduled final delivery times” for shipments VERSUS THE ACTUAL DELIVERED TIMES are not in the public record. What we do see occasionally now are trip plan statistics that site across the company’s entire network reported improvements from previous pre-PSR days in the 60% to 70% range......to Now after a PSR early phase execution are showing achieving carload siding placement at a better system average in the high 70’s or low 80’s percentage rate.
That’s good☑️  BUT...
What’s a best practice target? That might be the question to ask when looking at carload moves. A 2004 or so report to FRA suggested a complex three to four-yard move might hit a repeating 86% to 92% actual carload trip plan achievement rate. Yes, that would be a significant placement rate improvement. Nobody is reporting that for carloads. Are they? It's a complicated math problem where the achievement (benefit improvement) for the shipper/receiver is in large part the sum of the failure rate from RR operating point to all other operating points along each car path route.
There are other ways to document shipper benefits. How many extra load cycles per leased or owned private cars are such shippers getting now with PSR? You don’t need the RR company to calculate that benefit (or no benefit) for you. Here is another benefit calculation method: Has PSR changed reliability allowed a shipper to reduce its in-hand Product inventory? Or not? If improved, let’s monetize the answer. Are shippers getting a better freight rate now that carrier productivity has improved so much? In the old days, carrier benefits were shared with the customer rather than sent out as dividends. There was a benefits-sharing. Is that occurring now?