Back Customer Notifications Home

Customer Notifications inform BNSF customers of the latest news covering BNSF services, tools, prices and facilities.
 
To: All BNSF Customers
10/29/2014

BNSF 2014-2015 Winter Preparations and Plans

Dear BNSF Customer,

As we enter mid-autumn and look forward to another winter season, BNSF Railway would like customers to know the steps the company has taken to ensure it is better prepared than ever before for the challenges winter weather can have on our people, our operation and service to our customers. The 2013-2014 winter was one of the most severe winters the United States has experienced in decades. In particular, extreme temperatures persisted for long periods, which created special challenges for operating the railroad. While we always prepare the operation for winter, the extreme cold experienced last year provided us some additional insight that we have incorporated into our future preparations and operating procedures.

We know our customers depend on BNSF for reliable freight transportation. While unplanned events can always happen, we will go into the 2014-2015 winter with more resources and more preparation than ever before so that our people stay safe amid the harshest of weather conditions and our customers' freight gets to its destination as promised.

As you would expect, BNSF has a variety of winter action plans in place that are implemented at various times so that the operation can continue to function effectively year-around. Those action plans are focused on three strategic areas. They are:

    • To prepare our workforce to safely work in winter conditions.

    To prepare and position snow removal equipment and supplies.

    • To be positioned to quickly add manpower, equipment and supplies to address and recover from service interruptions caused by severe winter weather.


Winter Plans in Place for 12 BNSF Divisions

Each year, BNSF's 12 operating divisions review their winter action plans to ensure that resources and procedures are in place to address extreme winter conditions. During this review process, teams examine the current procedures, priorities and responsibilities to determine whether adjustments are needed based on past experience and each division's unique winter climate. Given the extremes endured last winter, the teams evaluated this year's plans with the benefit of that experience. Once those reviews were completed, the winter action plans were finalized and divisional command centers are now staffed with key personnel ready to activate plans 24 hours a day, seven days per week. BNSF is ready to act if weather conditions warrant. Each BNSF division has completed the following:
    Conducted safety briefings with employees to review hypothermia and frostbite prevention, as well as general safety precautions regarding slips, trips and falls and cold weather gear review.
    Taken inventory of snow removal equipment and supplies, such as emergency generators and salt supplies. We have salt domes at each of our intermodal facilities and they hold between 450-650 tons.
    Tested specialized snow removal equipment to make sure it works properly. For example, snowfall in excess of 8" will activate pushers, blade trucks and salt trucks.
    Reviewed winter weather operational procedures on when to adjust crew transportation procedures so that transporting crews from one location to another using crew vans is eliminated in favor of allowing crews to remain overnight at crew change locations as well as when to adjust train size, speed and other operating restrictions.

In addition to establishing winter action procedures, each division supports prepping locomotives for seasonal extremes. Preparing our locomotives to withstand winter weather helps keep trains moving so our customers get their products even during harsh conditions.

We prepare our locomotives for winter weather by stabilizing their operating temperatures by transferring more heat to locomotive engines to prevent freezing. This process starts in the northern part of our network in October and our operating teams work their way south by November.

To prevent a locomotive engine from freezing, they are designed to continue running once the outside temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Additionally, when fuel levels are low, a sensor on the locomotive alerts the operator and remote dispatchers that the locomotive needs to be refueled to prevent the engine from stopping and creating mechanical problems due to low temperatures.

BNSF has 148 rapid responders in 37 key locations that are cross-trained to resolve car and locomotive issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week year around. The vast majority of these responders are located in the upper Midwest where the operation experiences the lowest temperatures and a higher likelihood of ice and snow accumulation.


Additional Steps This Year - What's New

In reviewing last winter's service interruptions, we have added several new resources to support our operation. These resources include:
    Increasing our rapid response teams, who are dedicated to respond to service interruptions that may be caused by a variety of mechanical or operational issues, including those caused by winter weather.
      Increasing mechanical rapid responders by 25 percent. The increase in manpower comes in the form of nine new rapid response teams each made up of four rapid responders strategically positioned across the heavily congested North Region from Dickinson, ND in the western part of the state to Chicago, IL. We will also have teams positioned in the northern part of North Dakota in Williston and New Rockford as well as in La Crosse, WI; Savanna, IL; Fort Scott, KS and Sterling, IL.
      • Establishing after-hours 'track' rapid response teams to assist with snow removal across the northern part of our network, by keeping on more than 300 additional maintenance of way employees who are traditionally furloughed during the winter season. We have also established similar after-hours teams on key corridors across the central region.
    • Expanding container and trailer parking capacity (total of 800 spots) at three Chicago Hub Facilities: Willow Springs, Corwith and Cicero. The expanded parking will allow more containers to be staged when snowy conditions cause pick-up and delivery delays for trucks that are bound for those facilities.
    • Installing an additional 150 switch heaters at locations that previously did not have protection from cold temperatures (bringing our total network count to nearly 3,000) to ensure remote controlled rail switches do not freeze and fail during extreme cold.
    • Installing air dryers on all new locomotives to help reduce moisture that can accumulate in the braking system. Brake lines that freeze prevent a train from operating until ice can be removed.
    • Acquiring additional snow removal equipment with the most significant acquisitions being two industrial-size snow blowers that will be dedicated to keeping Hub Facilities in Chicago free of snow and ice.

As always, we thank you for your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve as your transportation service provider.

Sincerely,

Steve Bobb
Executive Vice President and
Chief Marketing Officer

If you have any questions, please send an email to Customer.Notifications@bnsf.com