By Justin Franz
FORT WORTH, Tex. — Amid ongoing congestion issues on its network in Southern California, BNSF Railway has begun to embargo some carload traffic to the Golden State. The embargo began on June 27 and is expected to last until July 31.
BNSF officials blamed its service issues on recent wind events in California and flash flooding in New Mexico.
“We have experienced a sharp increase in congestion throughout Southern California during the past few weeks due to several high wind events concurrent with the high levels of traffic seeking to move through the region,” the railroad wrote in an advisory to customers. “In addition, flash flooding from monsoonal rains caused a service outage earlier this week on a portion of our Southern Transcon near Laguna, N.M., approximately 70 miles west of Belen. Both main tracks at this location were out of service for several hours. Temporary speed restrictions were implemented while crews restored and inspected the affected track, which resulted in additional congestion and reduced fluidity on the Transcon.”
But the embargo also comes as Class I railroads across the country, including BNSF, struggle to maintain all services. The railroads have blamed the pandemic and the labor shortage, but the unions and shippers are blaming cuts related to Precision Scheduled Railroading and harsh attendance policies. According to the unions, more than 1,000 railroaders have left BNSF this year due to its restrictive “Hi-Viz” attendance policy.
BNSF said that the embargo that went into effect this week would negatively impact customers in the short term, but they were “confident” that it would pay off in the long run. The railroad also said that some customers would be able to request permits around the embargo, including those shipping commodities like military equipment, chemicals and grain.