Dialexa is proud to partner with BNSF


BNSF testing terminal fluidity measures ahead of appointment system rollout

BNSF Railway will be pilot testing several measures to increase fluidity through its terminals in Chicago, Memphis and Kansas City, culminating in the implementation later this year of an appointment system for container retrieval. 

Initial steps will include the designation of a waiting area for drivers so the railroad can meter how many trucks can wait underneath cranes to pick up boxes, and coordinating with trucking companies to increase the usage of BNSF’s RailPass app so drivers can enter and exit terminals faster.  Once those measures are tested, the western US railroad intends to implement an appointment system for the pickup of ocean containers at its three major inland hubs. Appointments would not be required to retrieve containers that placed on chassis ahead of a truck’s arrival, as is done with partner J.B. Hunt Transport Systems, but some domestic intermodal loads with other partners such as COFC Logistics, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Matson Logistics and Run Rail may require appointments in some of the hubs.  BNSF is working with Dialexa, an IBM company, and has been engaged with trucking partners over the past year to discuss how to improve its terminal operations. 

“It’s two-pronged approach for us with a sequencing phase we’re testing in Memphis in which everyone is allowed into the terminal, but we’re going to hold you and not let you get under the wide span crane until your spot is free, which will reduce overall congestion,” Scott Hernandez, BNSF’s assistant vice president of intermodal strategy and innovation, told the Journal of Commerce Wednesday. “We’ll expand it to Logistics Park Chicago [LPC], and then we’ll get into an appointment system later this year.” 

Seeking to end ‘unproductive movements’

The first step will be to provide truck traffic data to BNSF ahead of launching an appointment system. But there are also several unanswered questions, including what would happen if no appointments were available during the allowable free time for a container and if the railroad would charge demurrage (storage) fees. Also, would two appointments be necessary for a dual transaction, meaning when a driver is dropping off one load and picking up another on the same trip?

Similar to Norfolk Southern Railway, which instituted an appointment system in Atlanta and Memphis, BNSF said it can use the truck traffic data to groom the container stacks in the evening and overnight to prepare for the next day.

“About 90% of our truckers come in between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., so there are opportunities at nighttime to prepare for the next day,” Hernandez said. “I can reallocate resources at nighttime to adjust stacks, so the crane operator isn’t wasting time grabbing a box at the bottom the next day.”

He noted that in Logistics Park Chicago and Memphis, about 40% to 60% of the day consists of “unproductive movements” — shifting one container to get to another.

quote-mark If the data can reduce those unproductive movements, trucks will get in and out of the facility faster quote-mark

– Scott Hernandez, BNSF’s assistant vice president of intermodal strategy and innovation

Want to see the original article? Subscribe to the Journal of Commerce here.

Interested in logistics? Check out the Inland24 Conference in Chicago Sept. 30-Oct. 2.


Let’s make it happen.

The path to your next great product, invention or software application starts here. The first step is starting the conversation. Simply fill out this form, and we’ll reach out immediately.

"*" indicates required fields

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.