What features are commonly included in a rail shipment tracking and fleet management system?

Rail shipment tracking and fleet management systems are offered by several vendors, which offer many similar features. These systems lower administrative costs, improve supply chain performance and increase utilization of railcar fleets. This article summarizes those most common features and then also points out some less common features. Overall, I hope that by reading this you are better fit to make an educated decision. Full disclosure, the company I work for, provides such a solution. However, I have tried to write this article to be generally helpful without slanting it toward a specific brand.

Common Features provided

User Access – how users access the software system

  • Multiple concurrent users
  • Unique user name and password
  • Limit certain users to certain parts of the application
  • Web access through browsers with no software running on the company network

Storage, Presentation, and Delivery of Data

  • Storage of at least one year of railcar movement data
  • Pre-defined reports with easy recall and filtering
  • Copy existing reports
  • User create new custom reports
  • Automated delivery of reports
  • “Hot Group” reporting – the ability to identify a group of hot railcars for quick report filtering
  • Export reports to other file formats such as PDF, Excel, CSV, RTF.
  • Exception reporting (i.e. mis-route, bad order, non-movement)

Supplemental ETAs

Railroads provide ETAs to interchange, so if multiple railroads are the route of a shipment, it is beneficial for the system to provide ETAs to the final destination. Most do this based on averages of historical shipments with some applying advanced statistical process control (SPC).


  • Transit time
  • Loading / unloading Time
  • Time on particular railroad
  • Time between any two events
  • Switch performance

Fleet Management

  • Railcar performance and utilization reporting
  • Interactive mapping tool (visual of where your fleet is)
  • Lease and sublease Contract management

Railcar Profiles

  • Detailed description
  • Problem / issue tracking
  • Cargo capacity
  • Manual fleet grouping / assignment
  • Rule based automatic fleet assigment
  • Past service events
  • Scheduled maintenance

Railcar Detention

It is useful to see data and reports that show how long customers hold on to your fleet railcars. Many companies find it useful to give their customers or organizations that they ship to a limited number of days to unload a railcar before daily charges are assessed.

Integration with other systems

  • Inventory Management
  • ERP
  • Truck Logistics
  • Rail Yard Management
  • Transloading
  • Railcar Repair
  • Bill of Lading Transmission to Railroad

Features provided for an extra fee or not very common

 Bill of lading transmission to railroads

Yard management

Railroad demurrage / private railcar storage

  • Estimate railroad demurrage fee’s incurred
  • Real time demurrage reports (demurrage $ the car has incurred before the end of the trip)
  • Ability to enter  demurrage rules based on railroad contracts
  • Automated updating of demurge Rules

Railcar Accounting (Revenue vs. Cost; Freight Contract Management)

Payables (Automated Freight Payments)

Emergency after business hours support

Back office team to resolve shipment / data quality issues

Communication with railroads

  • Order railcars in from serving rail yards or constructive placement
  • Provide switching and other handling instructions
  • Release railcars to the railroad

I hope that you found this article useful. Please share any personal experience or questions.

All the best,



Jim Dalrymple


Learning Center Categories

These systems lower administrative costs, improve supply chain performance and increase utilization of railcar fleets.

Railcar Fleet Management

Reduce Demurrage Bills


Expanded Reporting Features

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