It happens every day: you place a two-day shipping Amazon Prime order. Over the next 48 hours, you’re able to track your package at all times. Is it in a distribution center? En-route to your home? Out for delivery by 10 p.m.? The same always-on visibility can exist for businesses shipping by rail. Rail visibility enables shippers to track shipments and identify potential problems across the entire shipment lifecycle.

Real-time “track and trace” and “supply chain visibility” are terms you hear every day, but do you know what they mean? Better yet, do you know how to implement those practices in your supply chain?

Rail visibility enables shippers to know:

  • A railcar’s location
  • Open car health alerts
  • Which railroad possesses the car
  • Where a shipment is heading
  • And more

Let’s cover the basics: What is rail shipment visibility? And how does it work?

Rail visibility is made possible through a process called event reporting. Events are reported to Railinc, the industry repository for rail data. An event could be as simple as a movement—a car was placed at X terminal by X railroad. Or, an event could signify something more significant, such as a railcar has been bad ordered (and likely needs a wheelset replacement).

Railinc, the industry's trusted data steward, receives approximately 10 million movement events per day:

  • 93% of the events come from the 7 Class I’s
  • 600+ Regionals and Short lines report events
  • 67% of those events are passing events
  • 4% are interchange events

There are two ways events are recorded: system-generated and human-communicated.

System-generated events include the following:

  1. Customer orders
  2. Waybill data
  3. Bills of lading
  4. And arrival/departure events from AEI readers

Human-communicated events, on the other hand, are entered in railroad systems by train crews or clerks. For example, a bad order event could be marked by the crew during a pre-trip inspection. Other crew/clerk-entered events include pull, placement, interchange, and bad order events that happen during a trip.

How can shippers leverage event reporting?

Many shippers use a visibility platform or transportation management system to track and trace rail shipments (aka, ingest events reported to Railinc).

Here are some things to consider when selecting a visibility provider:

Data Speed and Accuracy

Real-time data access is crucial for shippers. It doesn’t help you to know where your shipment was 48 hours ago. You need to know where it is right now, what state it’s in and when it will arrive at its destination. Our TransmetriQ rail management platform, a TMS for rail, integrates data directly from Railinc, and guarantees the most up-to-date, accurate information available from the industry repository of rail data.

Intuitive Reporting

With thousands of rail events happening every day, how can you as a shipper identify which events are important? Or, more importantly, which events are actionable and need your attention? Looking through raw event data can be more of a headache than help. Configurable reports, dashboards and alerts enable you to keep an eye on your overall fleet and quickly identify problem shipments. Our users often develop inbound empty equipment dashboards, bad order reports and more to keep an eye on what’s important.

Predictive Insights

As every shipper knows, it’s imperative to know ETA. But ETAs often fall short. Weather, train types and more can affect ETA. That’s why our platform provides a more accurate, Ai-powered ETA prediction. Using models to predict future events in a time sequence, Advanced ETA better accounts for scenarios such as, if a car takes a different route from origin to destination. Or, if it moves through, say, Chicago four times faster than usual. This allows us to predict a more accurate ETA so you can determine exactly when to schedule crews–giving you actionable insights to make the right business decisions.

Rail Expertise

At TransmetriQ, we’re rail experts with more than 50+ years of experience in the logistics industry. Our ability to understand the transportation challenges our customers face and provide solutions, using data direct from Railinc allows us to offer the most complete, up-to date picture of your rail operations that you can’t get anywhere else.


Learn more about TransmetriQ rail visibility solutions here.