CN’s guaranteed empty equipment supply program to cover full freight-car fleet

by Canadian Shipper

Canadian National is extending its guaranteed empty equipment supply program to all CN-controlled freight cars by November 2001.

The program now applies to center-beam flat cars and coil gondolas in Canada and the United States. In Canada it covers double door boxcars, bulkhead flat cars, single-door boxcars, bulkhead boxcars and standard flat cars.

This fall CN will expand the program in Canada to grain boxcars, paper/paperboard boxes and miscellaneous car groups. In the U.S. it will apply to flat cars, boxcars and miscellaneous car groups.

To date, about 70 per cent of the CN fleet targeted for the program (excluding bulk commodity car fleets and customer assigned pool cars) is covered by empty car supply guarantees. CN is in talks with its short-line partners to extend the program to off-line customers’ sidings.

CN is also expanding the scope of its electronic capabilities to permit shippers to order and track empty freight cars under the guarantee program via CN’s web site, Shippers can already track loaded cars, obtain estimated times of arrivals, calculate transit times and view and pay freight bills on CN’s Internet site. Shippers can register for the car order/tracking service at, or obtain general information at

Today CN guarantees delivery of empty freight cars on specified “want” dates – dates agreed to with the shipper – in exchange for the shipper’s commitment to accept the cars on those dates. The program is backed up by financial penalties for whichever party fails to fulfill its commitment.

“CN’s guaranteed car supply program enables our customers to anticipate car supply with confidence, and that means they can manage their inventory and supply chain costs more effectively. It also gives them transportation options – customers know in advance whether requested cars will be available, given the first-come, first-served nature of the program. If they’re not, a shipper can opt to accept alternate cars or defer the delivery date. All this helps squeeze waste from the freight distribution system,” says E. Hunter Harrison, CN’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

“For CN, the program has stabilized customers’ order patterns, and reduced short-term car orders and speculative over-ordering of cars. With firm car orders, we now have a more solid picture of customer demand, and that permits us to do more long-term car planning and to make better use of our assets,” he says.

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