Track & Trace Railcar Shipments with Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s BNSF.com
Burlington Northern Santa Fe is another Class I railroad that provides web-based tools for rail shippers and receivers to track their shipments. They package their railcar tracking tools into what is called BNSF.com. You can plan a shipment, get pricing, bill a shipment and pay for a shipment here, but this article focuses on the Rail Central section. If you have been thinking about using BNSF.com rail shipment tracing tools or you have been using just a small part of it and would like to learn more about what it can do, please read on.
To sign up for BNSF.com, take a look at this article, which explains how to sign up for most of the Class I railcar track & trace tools.
New Look & Feel for the August 2017 Update
- Track a Shipment now shows on the Home screen
- Menu tiles show sub menus and information in a more user friendly manner
- My Apps Circular menu has replaced a hoard of links
Copy and paste a list of railcars to track and trace
After you login to BNSF.com, there will be menus going across the top right of the window; click the Ship > Track a Shipment menu. Click on the link labeled “Track your Shipment”. You can trace up to 300 railcars at one time. Results can be exported to CSV, Excel or Text. It is possible to recall the list of railcars from the last few traces (as well as the trace options), but there isn’t an option to save and label a list of railcars. When the trace information is displayed, you can click on the railcar number, which is a hyperlink, and a menu displays presenting more hyperlinks to display Waybill Details, Shipment Details, Trip Plan, Equipment Characteristics (from Umler), and Unit History. The unit history shows the last 90 days of movements on BNSF only. The waybill details will show the last 30 days’ worth of billing.
The last reported location shown by the trace is, by default, only the last sighting on BNSF. If you click the railcar hyperlink and then click on Trip Plan, it will show you the movements on other railroads in the current trip. Another feature that will provide offline visibility: before you click the Track button, under the Include header, you can check the checkbox labeled “Include Foreign Line Information” to see the last reported location of any railcars that are on railroads other than BNSF. BNSF must be in the route for the current shipment to provide this offline visibility.
A new addition (August, 2017) to the trace results (By Unit) is the section below the last reported event and BNSF destination / ETA. This new section includes the BNSF train ID, the next planned event in the trip plan, the next carrier in the route, and the final destination. This is a nice addition and saves the user clicks and time to get vital information about the shipment.
13 months. Click on the My Apps circular menu, you will see a link titled “Unit History” in an alphabetical list; click on it. Only history while the railcar is on BNSF will be shown. You can filter the results by origin, destination, load / empty, waybill number or bill of lading number.
ETAs are provided with both the Track Your Shipment as well as custom reports. The ETA will be to interchange point with the delivering carrier or final destination, whichever is the farthest that BNSF will be taking the railcar on the trip. Occasionally a shipment would show “Not Available”, but this happened rarely. ETAs are not provided when the railcar is on a railroad other than BNSF.
If you require consistent ETAs to final destination that are provided from the beginning of the shipment all the way to the reaching the customer, you may want to consider a 3rd party rail shipment tracking system. This article discusses the types of features you can expect from these types of systems. This article discusses the cost of such systems. The sponsor of this Learning Center offers such a system and you can find out about it here.
The only place that I could find to display the trip plan was from the Track Your Shipment reports. When the records are displayed, the railcar is a hyperlink and when clicked, there is a Trip Plan hyperlink that will display the remaining plan when clicked.
In the same place where you can copy and paste a list of railcars to track and trace (see above), you can click on the tab labeled “By Train” at the top of the window. Up to 30 trains can be tracked at once and each record that is returned has a hyperlink (Train ID) that when clicked will show all of the railcars currently in the train. The results may be exported to CSV, Excel, and Text.
After you first login to BNSF.com, click on the tab labeled “RAIL CENTRAL” at the top of the window. Click on the Create New Report menu on the top left corner of the window and a separate window will open with a wizard that takes you through the process of creating a new report step by step.
- Choose the type of report Carload, Carload Pipeline, or Crude by Rail.
- Choose Template (optional); if you choose a template, then more complex options will disappear such as choosing your role in the shipment (shipper, consignee, etc.),
- Choose up to 5 customer accounts (6-3-3 abbreviations)
- Choose your company roles (maximum of 2) in the shipment (shipper, consignee, etc.). There is an option to include railcars that are not on BNSF.
- Select fields for the report
- Select filters for the report. The default tab allows you to choose Origin and/or Destination filters; the Advanced Search Filters tab allows you to set a lot more filters such as:
- State / Province
- Location (very detailed options here including direction codes, zone/track/spot, current/next carrier)
- Customer. There is a lookup for the company name and then it can be assigned to the Shipper or Consignee filter.
- Waybill related filters such as: waybill date range, days out, want days out, bill of lading number with wildcards, bond status
- Event codes and date. You can choose one or more events to limit the report and/or the number
- Route including Train Symbol, Train Origin / Destination, Road – Jct (Rule 260 abbreviation) – Road
- Unit initial / number / ranges; equipment length, load / empty, private / system; equipment request number; equipment want date.
- Errors such as bad orders, waybill errors, contract errors
- Commodity (STCC or description)
- Special such as special instructions, switch codes, station hours
- Choose sorts to add to each field and whether the grouping should be expanded or collapsed by default.
- Schedule and define email recipients
When the report displays in the Data View, there are menus that enable you to request services for the selected (check box) equipment that is currently on the BNSF. These are the same services available from the map feature as described below. If railcars are not on the BNSF, but BNSF is in the route for the shipment, the current location on the foreign road will be displayed.
Automated Delivery of Reports
You can do this with custom reports as explained in the section above. The scheduler is very flexible allowing you to select a time of day, days of the week and even an every 6, 8 or 12 hours option.
For reports created in Rail Central (custom reports), after the report is displayed click on the Map View tab and you can see the railcar locations on a map. If you click on the Units Total number, a window will pop up where you can select individual railcars and then use the menus at the top of the map to send requests for the equipment such as:
- Release (empty, loaded, other)
- Order in
The dots on the map indicate many different statuses as shown in the picture.
Transit Times & Dwell Times
Click on the Home tab at the top of the window and on the lower right side of the window under the Applications > Manage section, you will see a link titled “Customer Transit Report”. You will only get results for revenue empty and load shipments where your company is either the shipper or consignee. Transit measures are only provided for the BNSF portion of the move. Thirteen months of history is provided with monthly, quarterly, 13 months or custom date range. When the first report displays (below), the origin-destination pair is a hyperlink that when clicked will show more detailed charts. My favorite chart is the one that shows the transit time average based on the day of week the shipment originated. This would help you plan your shipments for the best possible performance. There are no reports available that show load / unload time. You can contact the BNSF demurrage team who may be able to put together a custom report according to the help desk.
Good. A report with 635 records displayed in about 9 seconds. The rest of the application performed in a way that kept me engaged.
Ease of use
Pretty straight forward windows, menus and buttons. The online Help (accessible by clicking on the Help menu in the upper right corner of each window) was a little sparse and could have provided more screen shots and examples. The site should feel familiar to folks accustomed to using modern web-based business applications.
I hope that this review gives you a better understanding of the BNSF.com track & trace tools. If you use this site, please post some comments about your experience with it and any tips or tricks that you have learned.
All the best,