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National Coal Transportation Association

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Western Logistics and Planning

History and Initiatives:

The Western Logistics and Planning Committee was formed in the mid-1990's in the aftermath of major western Class 1 rail mergers involving the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroads, and the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. The integration of such large rail systems presented many operational, process, and technical challenges and concerns. The coal producer and coal consumer members of WCTA (now NCTA) came together and formed the Logistics and Planning Committee to seek solutions, in collaboration with the railroads, to the service difficulties encountered during this time. Due to the positive results of this cooperative effort, the Logistics and Planning Committee became a permanent standing subcommittee of the NCTA in 1998. Since that time, the Logistics and Planning Committee has gone on to tackle other planning and logistical issues as they have arisen with respect to western coal shipments. The following examples of the Western L&P's efforts contain links to more detailed information.

SRPB Joint Line Forecasting and Slotting Process - the NCTA Logistics and Planning Committee, working with both BNSF and UP railroads and consultants KPMG and Canac, facilitated an extensive third-party review and assessment of the validity of the forecasting and slotting process methodology used by the railroads for the SPRB Joint Line. The result of this outside assessment was an affirmation that the railroad forecasting and slotting process in place is reasonable and equitable.

Unique Identifier Process - as markets evolve, new challenges develop. As third party (brokered and traded) coal became a bigger part of the mix of SPRB shipments, issues with respect to the nomination and identification of third party trains arose. The NCTA Logistics and Planning Committee put together a process for expediting this which is in use by SPRB producers, together with other parties in the coal chain.

Train Parking Protocols - disruptions inevitably occur in the supply chain, and a significant disruption in the SPRB can quickly lead to serious train congestion which can translate into significant delayed and missed shipments. The NCTA Logistics and Planning Committee identified a need to have a planned approach to the temporary parking of trainsets due to either a producer issue or a railroad issue that would significantly impact the flow of shipments. The flowcharts that were created have become the protocols used by the BNSF and UP railroads for such situations.

Parking Protocols - Railroad Deviation from NCTA Forecast
Parking Protocols - Supply Side Deviation from NCTA Forecast

The NCTA Logistics and Planning Committee focuses on practical solutions to real-world problems, with the goal of improving the western coal supply chain. Various personnel representing coal producers, coal consumers, and the BNSF and UP railroads have been leaders in the Committee's work and in developing the processes and protocols described above. Of course, participation is voluntary.

To learn more about the NCTA Western Logistics and Planning Committee, please contact Jeff Zerkle, Chairperson, at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Vice-Chairman Lexie Burgess at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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