Railinc Tracks Blog

Railinc tracks are everywhere although you don't always see them. The Railinc Tracks blog reveals them one at a time and shows you how we help to keep railroads, railcars and rail shipments moving across America. The blog is staffed by the Railinc Corporate Communication team and will give you news and insights about our company, our people and our products.

Top Railinc Customer Questions (and Answers)

Railinc’s Customer Success Center handles about 40,000 inquiries each year, from requests for walkthroughs of any one of the company’s dozens of products to questions about locked accounts and lost passwords.

Here are five of the top questions Railinc’s CSC team gets from customers, with links to resources that have the answers.

Don’t see your question here? Our CSC team can help. Contact us at csc@railinc.com or 877-724-5462.

  1. How do I manage access rights for the Umler System?
    An Umler system user’s access is managed by an Umler administrator at their company. This administrator controls their colleagues’ ability to modify data within the system. The Umler Managing Access Rights Quick Guide covers how administrators can grant any or all data-modification rights to an Umler user or to another mark or company.
  2. How do I edit a Letter of Authorization (LOA)?
    Railinc uses LOAs to help protect its customers’ confidential data. These agreements ensure that appropriate data is sent only to authorized parties. Sometimes, you need to update information in an LOA to help with activities such as shipment or asset management. View our LOA Editing demo video for step-by-step instructions on editing an LOA.

  3. How do I nullify an alert closure in the Equipment Health Management System (EHMS)?
    When a repair or inspection is reported incorrectly, you can nullify the alert closure if your road reported the activity. There are restrictions on who can nullify an alert closure. Take a look at page 20 of the EHMS User Guide for complete instructions.
  4. How do I nullify an inspection in Umler?
    The Umler system gives users a way to report inspections. But sometimes mistakes happen, like reporting an air brake inspection in error. You can easily fix this by logging into the system and nullifying the inspection. Read our Umler Nullifying Inspections Quick Guide to learn how.
  5. How do I query historical lineage in Umler?
    The Umler system’s historical lineage function enables users to view all actions related to a specific equipment ID or equipment identification number, like the restenciling required by an ownership change. Some data are confidential and accessible only to equipment owners. Download the Umler Querying Historical Lineage Quick Guide to find out how to view historical lineage.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Named Great Supply Chain Partner

Railinc Corp. has been honored again as one of the “100 Great Supply Chain Partners" for 2017 by SupplyChainBrain magazine. Each year, the magazine features an elite group of companies whose customers have nominated them for providing outstanding solutions and services that made a significant impact on their supply chain performance. This is the second consecutive year Railinc has been selected for this logistics industry award.

“Everyone at Railinc is honored by our customers’ recognition of the value we are delivering through products like RailSight,” said Allen West, CEO and president. “Freight rail is a critical component in the supply chain network, and we’re proud of the role we play in our customers’ success.”

Now in its 15th year, SupplyChainBrain solicits nominations from logistics industry companies to evaluate service providers that made a significant impact on their company’s efficiency, customer service and overall supply chain performance.

“This year’s field of nominees was abundant and very strong, hailing from all aspects of supply chain management,” said Brad Berger, publisher of the magazine. “Railinc should be proud to be named amongst the 100 Great!”

RailSight Delivers Rail Shipment Visibility and Rail Equipment Management Data

Railinc’s RailSight suite of applications delivers rail shipment visibility and equipment management data directly to the desktop or via TMS solution to support rail equipment owners, shippers and third-party logistics providers. Railinc’s data products and technology systems are deeply embedded in the North American freight rail network, providing safety and operational support. Railinc also manages widely-used industry databases, builds critical software applications and provides essential business intelligence services supporting the freight rail industry.

SupplyChainBrain, the world’s most comprehensive supply chain management information resource, is accessed year round through a wide range of ever evolving multi-media formats by hundreds of thousands of senior level industry executives. In addition to addressing the fundamental principles of supply-chain management, SupplyChainBrain identifies emerging trends, technologies and best practices, forward thinking ideas and cutting-edge solutions, and continues to write and report about these as they evolve and mature.

Railinc Corp. appeared in the 2017 July/August issue of SupplyChainBrain magazine as a member of this year’s 100 Great Supply Chain Partners.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Top 3PLs Pick RailSight for Shipment Visibility

Railinc has announced that use of its RailSight intermodal and railcar data services, software applications, and analytics insights solutions has grown to include eight of North America’s 10 largest third-party logistics (3PL) providers, as well as all 10 of the largest private railcar fleet owners in North America.

Railinc created and developed RailSight as a suite of “Data as a Service” (DaaS) and “Software as a Service” (SaaS) cloud-based solutions that deliver value to the rail industry through its high-quality rail shipment, intermodal and rail management data feeds. RailSight is the freight rail industry’s most complete, single-source rail shipment visibility platform and enables users to adapt to changing business conditions and enhance business performance with the most comprehensive and timely shipment location messages and dynamic ETAs.

The latest rail and intermodal container shipment locations are reported to and aggregated by RailSight from more than 560 railroads across North America. RailSight reporting and exception management tools empower customers to more efficiently manage deliveries and expectations, production schedules, staffing, and inventory through a flexible, near real-time data delivery framework. RailSight supports a wide range of data formats and connectivity options, including legacy EDI, FTP, SFTP, MQ, Web Services and APIs.

“Because RailSight provides an unmatched level of detail and scope of rail visibility events across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, we have been steadily gaining adoption among a growing base of corporate consumers of this information,” said Chuck Hieronymi, Railinc’s director of business solutions. “We’re proud to be trusted with the critical task of supplying operating and supply chain data to the owners of major private railcar fleets, global 3PLs, shippers, and other participants in the North American rail system.

“We understand that in today’s competitive digital marketplace, we must continuously identify and deliver improved data quality and data delivery processes that can handle the increasing complexities of global supply network management,” Hieronymi said.

Railinc and the RailSight team are also leading the way in customer experience and satisfaction. Railinc registers a Net Promoter Score of 61, which places the company in the reputational ranks of such well-known brands as Southwest Airlines, Netflix and Google.

Railinc is also recognized by trade publications as an industry IT leader, showing up in rankings that include “100 Great Supply Chain Partners” and “Top 100 Logistics IT Providers.”

Railinc is a major employer of information technology professionals, ranking 11th in a Triangle Business Journal survey of software developers in North Carolina’s Triangle region—internationally known for its technology and scientific communities.

“RailSight’s historically high customer retention rates and our outstanding customer-satisfaction scores are all made possible by our dedicated Railinc team, our commitment to operational excellence and continued focus on our customers’ success,” Hieronymi said.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Reference Files Help Keep Industry Moving

Imagine that you run a lumber company, and you need to ship plywood from Oregon to Maine. Your shipment would move on multiple railroads to travel the approximately 2,600 miles from origin to destination.

What if those railroads each used different information to identify where exactly the railcar carrying your shipment was to be interchanged along the way?

Your plywood shipment would probably take a lot longer to get to Maine.

If it got there at all.

Industry Reference Files (IRFs) serve as the North American freight rail industry’s official code tables. IRFs enable data consistency that helps the rail industry manage the movement of 1.7 trillion ton-miles of products every year in the most efficient way possible. They are the sources the railroads involved in your shipment would use for critical information like station locations and the commodities they’re supposed to be moving. As the hub for industry data, Railinc maintains 12 IRFs and uses them to support essential rail systems and operations.

“IRFs are vital to the rail industry because they play a role throughout the entire lifecycle of a rail shipment,” said Rob Drew, Railinc’s IRF product manager. “You can think of IRFs as data as a service (DaaS) that Railinc maintains on behalf of the rail industry and its customers. The real value of IRFs is that everybody in the industry is working off the same set of reference data.”

IRFs Provide a Single Source for Essential Information

The first railroad moving your plywood knows exactly where it will hand off your shipment to the second railroad because they’ve both gotten the location address from the same source. In this case, they’re using data from the Centralized Station Master, a geographic location file that contains information about rail and motor carrier point stations.

Industry Reference Files serve as spell checkers, data dictionaries and thesauruses supporting communications within railroads and across the industry. 

The dozen IRFs that Railinc maintains are full of other details such as railroad personnel contact information; route origin, interchange and destination points; customer names and locations; commodity types; information on hazardous materials; and shipment types. They serve as spell checkers, data dictionaries and thesauruses supporting communications within railroads and across the industry.

These files help railroads plan freight movement, transport hazardous materials safely, identify revenue routes, apply switch charges accurately, communicate delivery instructions and ensure billing accuracy. Without IRFs, railroads and their partners and customers would have a difficult time communicating about these activities, and railroad traffic would slow.

IRFs Play Role Through Rail Shipment Lifecycle

IRFs contain essential information that gets used even before your plywood shipment is loaded on a railcar. When you’re ready to move your plywood by rail, you create a bill of lading and send it to the first railroad. That railroad uses the information you’ve provided to create a waybill with details and instructions for your shipment. Waybills include information from several IRFs, including the Customer Identification File (CIF) to identify the customer, the Mark to identify the rail carriers involved and the Standard Transportation Commodity Code (STCC) to identify the commodity being shipped.

CIF contains about 300,000 records. Carriers use CIF data to identify customer locations where price and other contract terms apply so they can provide accurate delivery instructions and improve shipment reservation, booking and equipment-ordering processes.

CIF includes the name, physical and mailing address, corporate parent identifier and a unique identification code for each location managed by the corporate parent. Carriers don't have to worry about inconsistent data because the information is managed using the same standards by a single entity—Railinc. Our employees receive new entity, name change and other requests and update CIF information daily.

Because more than one railroad will carry your plywood, information from IRFs is required to help determine the rate each carrier will charge the shipper. IRFs enable railroads to automatically split up and settle payments among carriers and help to ensure that shipments are routed properly and switch charges are applied correctly.

IRFs Feed Critical Industry Systems

But IRFs aren’t just standalone reference resources. Critical industry systems like the Interline Settlement System®, the Umler® system and the Damaged and Defective Car Tracking (DDCT) system rely on the information they contain to function.

For example, the Mark register contains a record of all reporting marks, the alphabetical characters stenciled on every railcar to identify the railroads, shippers and equipment companies that own or lease them. Marks support electronic interactions among railroads, their customers and Railinc systems and files and are used for revenue accounting purposes like car hire and car repair billing.

If your shipment travels on more than one carrier, industry rules require that the car that carries your plywood to Maine must be registered in the Umler system, a cornerstone industry database that contains information on more than 2 million pieces of rail equipment in North America. The Umler system uses the Mark register to identify equipment owners and lessors. This ownership information, combined with the data in the Umler system, helps to ensure car hire billing and demurrage and other fees are assigned to the right entity.

Mark information and other IRFs also play critical roles in DDCT, which provides a centralized system for freight car owners, railroads, repair shops, and scrap and storage facilities to track damaged and defective railcars. DDCT uses Mark, STCC and other data so handling carriers can search and enter crucial information for cars that are being tracked.

Freight rail industry rules also require DDCT users to register in FindUs.Rail, an IRF that contains contact information for industry participants. DDCT uses FindUs.Rail data to send notifications throughout the DDCT workflow, keeping industry participants informed about incidents and repairs.

So by the time you close the books on your shipment, it’s possible that as many as 11 of the 12 IRFs will have played some role in getting your plywood to Maine. (Had you been shipping hazardous materials, all 12 IRFs would have had a role.)

“IRFs are sort of like the little engine that could,” Drew said. “On the face of it, they might just seem like lists of addresses and commodity codes and company names. But they’re dependable and indispensable, and they’re essential to helping the North American rail industry keep trains moving and efficiently serve customers.”

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Big Data Means Better Rail Shipment Visibility

Each time a wayside detector logs a passing railcar, Railinc receives information about the car. The rail industry uses these event messages to track railcar movements.

As the hub for rail industry data, Railinc receives more than 11 million of these messages every day from all seven Class I railroads and more than 500 short line railroads. That’s more than 4 billion annually, each carrying vital information that supports rail operations. The sheer volume enables Railinc to offer the most comprehensive data feed available to the industry.

Railinc uses these data to create car location messages (CLMs). And despite the name, CLMs aren’t just about location.

They can contain information about waybills, embargoes, bad orders, interchanges, arrivals, departures, estimated time of arrival, loaded and unloaded status, and the start or end of a railcar’s trip, among other data points.

These CLMs feed Railinc’s RailSight Track and Trace solution. The industry’s only comprehensive, single-source shipment-tracking service, RailSight Track and Trace sends out real-time rail data around the clock, enabling the most complete view available of a rail shipment’s lifecycle. RailSight helps users track railcars and intermodal equipment on more than 530 carriers across North America. Railinc supports various integration and connectivity options, including EDI, API and others.

Shippers, railroads, car owners and third-party logistics providers can use RailSight Track and Trace to access actionable information about equipment and shipments, enable process improvements, and reduce and avoid costs related to railcar storage, bad orders, IT support and infrastructure, billing disputes and other areas. Here are just a few ways RailSight can support logistics needs:

  • Shippers can tell whether a railcar is ready to be loaded or unloaded and have resources at the ready to minimize or avoid demurrage.

  • Railroads can gain complete visibility through a single source into a railcar’s status, even on foreign lines, so they can keep their customers informed about a shipment all the way through to delivery.

  • Car owners can monitor the health and usage of their leased equipment, keeping track of information like trip length and mileage, and who has possession of the railcar.

  • Third-party logistics providers can eliminate information gaps to deliver improved productivity and customer service.

From custom reporting to systems integration, RailSight Track and Trace can deliver the data you need, when you need it, providing information that improves visibility and helps you manage your business more efficiently and effectively.

Ready to learn more about RailSight Track and Trace? Visit the RailSight Track and Trace resource page or contact the Railinc customer support team at 877-724-5462 or csc@railinc.com.