Jim Blaze: Show us the shipper benefits of Precision Scheduled Railroading

Jim Blaze Headshot

Show us the shipper benefits of Precision Scheduled Railroading - FreightWaves

On the basis of strategic lanes or commodity groups, a sample of freight cars should pinpoint change/improvement rather precisely (no pun intended).  

If PSR has a shipper benefit, we should expect to see a 10 percent to 20 percent improvement in railcar cycle time if railroads are able to effect better schedule-keeping and more accurate ETAs are executed.  

Maybe larger.

If an organization like Railinc cannot yet make the statistical calculations for institutional or privacy reasons, are there other methods? Yes.

More than 75 percent of the North American rail fleet is privately owned or leased. One hundred percent of the tank cars are shipper- or receiver-“controlled.”

Theoretically, shippers or receivers could gather statistical evidence about their private fleet cycle time changes. There is a presumption that the tag-read data associated with their commodity inventory in motion is their market intelligence. Therefore, shippers should be able to calculate their PSR benefits.  

Are they doing that? Are they willing to share that intelligence?  


As a third approach, railcar leasing firms should be able to calculate their changes in fleet-specific loaded and empty miles. If railcar load productivity is increasing, the need for more leased cars should be decreasing. Of course, some lessors might not want to disclose that for obvious business reasons.

A fourth analytic process involves the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The STB could make independent calculations. It could institute a proceeding to examine patterns from the enriched version of the annual rail waybill sample.

Finally, short line railroad partners should be able to calculate the “before and after” changes in PSR interline actual event times compared with nominal ETA interchange times.  

In the increasingly digital era soon to be enhanced with terabytes of positive train control (PTC) Global Positioning System “reads,” there will be warehouses of data that could specify PSR-generated customer benefits.

Think about that. The possible PSR railcar cycle and customer service benefits should be a treasure chest of marketing good news. Why let a third-party logistics or data analysis firm write that market report? If it’s great news, the railroad marketing executives should be broadcasting the message.  

Which of the six PSR railroad will be the first to show us the metrics? Will one of them use the quarterly investor presentations that start this week do that?