Winter storms are adding extra stress to a supply chain that’s already operating under severe capacity constraints. But players in one corner of the industry seem unfazed by the threat. Rail industry groups say they have the snow situation under control, thanks to a combination of mobile technology, precision forecasting, and heavy machinery.
The U.S. freight rail sector’s infrastructure and equipment are essentially an outdoor production line, spanning 140,000 miles of track and thousands of trains, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) says. But in this case, the production line is exposed to the elements, making it uniquely vulnerable to weather-related disruptions. For example, snow drifts can cover tracks, moisture can freeze in airbrake hoses, and frigid temperatures can affect steel rails.
Railways handle those challenges by preparing for winter before the first flakes ever fly, AAR says. Those steps include: