steelroads

Usage Cap Established For Steelroads Users

Several colleagues of mine who have sponsored Steelroads* accounts told me that today an email was sent from Railinc (creator and owner or Steelroads) informing them that the railroad sponsor of their account (more on that later) has set a cap for a certain number of trace events (CLM – car location messages or sightings) per week. If the cap is exceeded, no more sighting data will be delivered until the following Sunday. For those of you who use a railroad-sponsored account of Steelroads, you have probably seen this email or will shortly.

Based on the number of sightings allowed and the size of the railcar fleets, the cap seems to be ample for a small department. For example, for a fleet of 450 railcars, a cap is set at 28,000 per week. This is 62 events per railcar. Most event history that I have seen in my years of looking at this type of data shows that, on average, a typical manifest/carload railcar will collect about 60 to 100 events per shipment – sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the location of the country.  Before you start celebrating, hear this. If you ran a trace in Steelroads that showed all of your railcars eight times a day, then you would be close to hitting the cap. That’s right. Even if most of your railcars didn’t move that day and the same sightings were shown the eight times you ran that trace, each sighting gets counted against your cap. What if you have four people who share the account? They can only do two traces per day.

How do you know how much data has been used against the cap? Once you have reached 50% of your cap, you will be notified by email. You will receive another email once 100% is reached and informed that you will receive no more data until the following Sunday. If you need to know more, the only other option that I am aware of is to give Steelroads customer service a call.

What is a sponsored account? There is an option, when you first sign up for Steelroads Track and Trace application, to request a railroad to sponsor you. You typically need to be paying a significant amount of freight and your company needs to be listed on the waybills for the shipments you wish to track. The railroads pay for the sightings for sponsored accounts. How much? Not sure. The retail fee, at this time, is $0.06 per sighting record with a monthly minimum of $100. The railroads are most likely not paying that. To get the same data directly from Railinc through their RailSight product, a trace event is $0.025 per record with a monthly minimum of $1,000 at time of posting. Assuming that the railroads are paying $0.025 per record: 28,000 events = $700 per week, $2,800 per month or $33,600 per year. Even if they have a volume discount, this is a significant expense. “Aw, it is a pittance compared to what we pay in freight charges each month,” you say. Sure, but imagine if that charge all of a sudden started hitting your budget?

Recommendation.

  1. Don’t have people share a single Steelroads account. Get multiple accounts if you can. Your company will probably still be limited to the same amount (update 01/19/2011 – the cap limit is actually set on an account basis not a company basis), but you will know who is using it too much. Bottom line, control these accounts and be sure you understand who is using them and how much.
  2. Use the New Events option in Steelroads. This option may be used with saved Trace Lists only. It is great because every time the trace is run, it only returns new events that have happened since the last time you ran the trace. You can run the trace 50 times and it will never return the same record for a railcar twice. Of course, for the railcars that haven’t moved since the last trace, you will not see their location, you will just see “No New Events” (recommendation #3 deals with this). There is also the little annoying issue of when you add a railcar to the trace list and then run the trace, you won’t see any sighting events until the next time it moves after you have added it to the trace list. If you must see where these railcars are right away, you must run a separate demand trace for them. I would recommend to do that in a separate trace list that just has a small amount of newly added railcars.
  3. Download trace events (using the New Events option) into a database management system (DBMS), build queries and a few reports or forms on top of it and encourage (force) people to use it instead of Steelroads directly. This way, people can run as many reports as often as they would like and it doesn’t count toward the Steelroads cap. By the way, this download from Steelroads into SQL Server can be automated. That will be a topic for the future. Stay tuned. If you need it now, shoot me an email.

For the techies out there: A good DBMS to use is Microsoft SQL Server Express 2012. SQL Server Express is more difficult to learn and use than Excel or Access, but you don’t have to buy it, it’s free. It only has a file size limitation of 10GB (that’s gee-bee not em-bee), which is pretty darn huge.


Shameless plug:

Railcar Management System (RMS), our web-based shipment tracking and fleet management system, can store about 25 year’s worth of Steelroads sightings for 300 railcars into SQL Server Express before hitting the 10GB limit. The data downloads from Steelroads are automatic and seamless. For a few dollars more per month, we can upgrade it to a licensed version of SQL Server for unlimited storage. Plus, RMS has many reports and a powerful built-in report writer for you to build custom reports quickly and easily.


Hope you have found this helpful. Happy Holidays to you all!

– Jim

*Steelroads is a trademark of Railinc Corporation.

Jim Dalrymple

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Even if they have a volume discount, this is a significant expense. “Aw, it is a pittance compared to what we pay in freight charges each month,” you say. Sure, but imagine if that charge all of a sudden started hitting your budget?

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1 Comment

  1. Charles Paye on January 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

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