U.S. railroads received high marks in a grain industry survey following the 2014 harvests as shipments were much improved from the year before.
The survey, which began in November 2014 and concluded this month, was initiated after the widespread rail problems and delays following the previous year's harvests.
"Fortunately, the rail service disruptions from 2014 have not been repeated," explains Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. "Rail service metrics have dramatically improved across the board. Railroads responded to last year's challenges with an aggressive level of investment. This has clearly paid dividends."
The survey was conducted by the University of Minnesota and the Soy Transportation Coalition. In the latest and final survey period, 94% of participating grain handling facilities reported faster cycle times for railroads than a year ago. That is up from 67% in the first survey.
The improvements were attributed to: an elongated 2014 harvest season that gave railroads time to adjust to the volumes, railroads responded to demand, farmers stored more grain reducing demand for rail service, more favorable weather for transporting soybeans and grain, and more modest harvest volumes than anticipated.
Related: USDA reviews 2014 in grain shipping
The research project was designed to monitor and document rail service for the 2014 harvest in areas of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Survey respondents reported 2.49 turns per month between their facilities and the Pacific Northwest – the highest number recorded throughout the ten survey periods.