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Kansas City rail fails to cope with congestion from US port import surge

RAILWAYS serving Kansas City are failing to cope with congestion from import surges into US ports and cross-border traffic from Mexico, resulting in chassis shortages and other related troubles

21 April 2021 - 19:00
RAILWAYS serving Kansas City are failing to cope with congestion from import surges into US ports and cross-border traffic from Mexico, resulting in chassis shortages and other related troubles.

Shippers have been paying thousands of dollars in rail storage fees since mid-February, according to truckers, chassis providers and cargo owners, reports IHS Media.



The catalyst for the woes in Kansas City was the severe winter weather that disrupted the US intermodal rail system in mid-February. But problems have persisted - and worsened - in the last two months, with three cargo owners calling intermodal service in Kansas City a 'complete mess'.



One shipper who asked not to be identified said he has unsuccessfully disputed numerous storage charges with BNSF in Kansas City related to chassis shortages.



'It's an operational nightmare for the truckers and has been for two months. It's a disaster,' he said. 'There is total confusion of what is on site and where it is. Chassis shortages, railroads are refusing to let truckers return empties where they picked them up, trains are not being off-loaded timely or loaded in a timely manner, and everything is going into storage or detention. BNSF is still charging storage fees despite this being 100 percent attributable to their operational and administrative ineptness.'



Heavy volume is at the centre of the meltdown, as laden imports to the main feeders into Kansas City - the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and New Jersey, and Virginia - were all up more than 20 per cent year on year in the first quarter.



Even compared to 2019, when last year's Covid business shutdowns weren't a factor, volumes were up more than 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2021.



BNSF Railway acknowledged the volume surges have created slowdowns at their Kansas City terminal.



'We did encounter some operational challenges at Logistics Park Kansas City mainly due to the weather impacts felt in February,' the railway said. 'In the last few weeks, we have experienced positive momentum and are moving in the right direction.'


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