A continued shortage of rail grain cars in the central and southern Plains States is hampering domestic markets in those areas, but export markets are coping fairly well, cash grain merchandisers report.
Export markets have contended with the problem better than domestic shippers because of a lack of new overseas sales, they said.The pipelines are full, but most exporters have their needs met and their railcars booked. Without large new export sales, the system just has to keep churning through its prior commitments, they said.
Domestic markets often are served with one- to five-car shipments, and these orders have sometimes been slow in filling, the merchandisers said. Larger customers, served with unit-trains, traditionally receive more timely attention than the single-car shipper.
Ken Hillblom, manager of covered hoppers for Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, said some branch lines may not have scheduled service every day, which could delay a railroad's ability to fill orders as quickly as shippers might like. The effects of a car shortages on some country grain elevators then would be exacerbated.
Grain terminals, which by their very nature sit on railroad trunk lines, receive service every day, Mr. Hillblom said. Thus, service to these firms, which often serve export markets predominantly, sometimes is better.
He estimated that Santa Fe was behind on its car orders by an average of three to five days.
Burlington Northern Railroad was an estimated 26.8 days behind on filling its car orders because of heavy shipments to the Pacific Northwest, according to a company bulletin.
Because of heavy shipments and demand for grain into Mexico, Union Pacific Railroad has car orders stretching into March for this market, a spokesman said. Return cars have not been delayed appreciably, though.
Union Pacific had insufficient grain cars to fill some of its single-car orders in a timely manner, the spokesman said, but he had no immediate estimate on how far behind the orders were.