Complications of Inaccurate Data in Rail Shipping

One of the most important aspects of shipping by rail is accurate data. Since shipping by rail is heavily reliant on data, inaccuracies can be present numerous challenges. Inaccurate data in rail shipping can result in additional rates and switching charges, less optimized routes, increased time spent preparing shipments, and more time spent responding to complications that develop. At RSI Logistics, we understand how important data is; in this blog, we examine complications resulting from inaccurate data to promote the importance of precise data, and what you can do to improve the accuracy of your data.

Charges Resulting from Inaccurate Data

One significant consequence of inaccurate data in rail shipping is the charges that can result. These charges can include additional Fuel Surcharge Rates, switching charges, and miscellaneous charges (such as carbon tax, goods and service tax, and more). If these rates and charges are not accurately maintained, the invoice received from the railroads may not match what is due to be paid. Furthermore, changes to the charge amount, the effective or expiration date of the charge, and terms as noted in the published contract or authority can all impact an invoice if inaccurate.

For example, a tariff rate can increase with little to no prior notice because railroads can change tariffs at any time. Without a close eye on the tariffs, you might receive an invoice with a higher rate than what you were expecting due to not updating your records when the tariff rate increased. However, this risk can be mitigated by using an expert rate service.

If you have a hard time monitoring tariff changes and updating records in response to tariff changes, then one possible solution is to hire an external organization, like RSI Logistics, to manage your rates for you. At RSI Logistics we track changes to rates and proactively identify rates coming up for expiration within 90 days to formulate a rate renewal strategy. Our Freight Audit/Pay services can also be utilized to ensure the railroads are billing correctly, because we audit and dispute utilizing our rate staff’s expertise.

Rate Requests and Inaccurate Data

Rate requests can also be a challenge if you are dealing with inaccurate data in rail shipping. Having accurate data up front is essential for developing rates for a new business opportunity! Before approaching railroads for a private rate, make sure you have the following accurately prepared:

  • Origin rail station and destination rail station
  • Standard Transportation Commodity Code (STCC) of product being shipped
  • Estimated annual or monthly volume of railcars
  • A target rate range for the railroads to shoot for

Inaccurate data provided to railroads for developing new rates can create a few issues. These include delays in developing a rate quote, invalid rate quote for shipments made, and railroads declining to quote or offer a tariff rate.
Fortunately, these complications can be mitigated by RSI Logistics’ rate management team. We approach the railroads with all the necessary information and target rates to keep them focused on developing a competitive rail quote with minimal delays.

Inaccurate Data Affecting Routes

Your routes can also suffer from complications arising from inaccurate data in rail shipping. Erroneous routing listed on a Bill of Lading can cause various, and oftentimes serious, issues. Delays in transit time is a familiar complication that results from an incorrect routing listed. Oftentimes this inexact data can cause diversions and rebills to occur, which can cause extra invoices to be issued, original contract rates to be invalid, and delays in transit times.

RSI Logistics’ Rate Management service works to counteract these issues that arise. We make sure your routings are listed correctly and, utilizing our expertise and Serving Carrier/Reciprocal Switch (SCRS) data, we can analyze your rates and routings to ensure you are employing the most cost-efficient routing.

Reporting Inaccuracies

Another obstacle that rail shippers run into due to inaccurate data is erroneous or missing information on Car Location Messages (CLMs). As railcars pass by scanners, their location information, load/empty status, and rail carrier details are updated. Those sighting updates are transmitted as a CLM, which shippers use for tracking and tracing. Further information included on the CLM are the destination, waybill number, and Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), all of which are reliant upon the rail carrier sending the railcar’s waybill information along with the current location information. In many cases, the destination and ETA are missing from the CLM. This lack of information hinders shippers’ ability to plan if they don’t know where their shipments are headed or when they are estimated to arrive at a destination.

Even if all the information is included in the CLMs, there are times when that information is not accurate. For example, a railcar may have been brought into the destination facility, but the CLM still shows the railcar as arrived in the serving yard. Diversions and rebills were mentioned earlier – in some cases when the destination is updated on the shipment, that update isn’t reflected in the CLM as it should be. This again affects planning and production schedules.

Our proprietary software, RSInet, has tools in place to automatically recognize and correct these types of discrepancies, giving you the reliable reporting that you deserve.

Keep an Eye on Your Data

Inaccurate data can result in a myriad of issues and challenges, and even if these challenges aren’t disrupting your entire supply chain, they might be costing you time and money without your awareness.

Here at RSI Logistics, we understand the complications involved with ensuring your data is accurate, timely, and available. For more than 30 years rail shippers have been relying on software and services from us to make their rail shipping simpler, more efficient, and more cost-effective. Contact us today to get started on making your data accurate!