Allowable Gross Weight Shipments

Union Pacific continues to implement a process to help eliminate damage to rail infrastructure that can occur from the shipment of rail cars that exceed the maximum recommended gross weight. While much of Union Pacific's system is approved for the heavy axle rail cars that can handle up to 286,000 lbs. or 315,000 lbs. gross weight, in several Union Pacific locations, the track structure – in most cases, bridges – is not capable of adequately handling and distributing this excess weight and may have a restriction of 268,000 lbs or further based on the length of the rail car. These restrictions are required to maintain our commitment to the safe, damage free delivery of our customer's shipments.

In order to address safety issues and to prevent damage, or potentially catastrophic failure, to track or a bridge structure, an automated system reviews all cars along with their routes, to determine if the gross weight limitations for that route are exceeded. If a car exceeds the gross weight limit for the requested route, it will automatically be placed in hold. The car status will show as "HY" on the website car trace if the car is too heavy for the track or “HE” if the car is too heavy for the bridges based on its car length and gross weight. These cars will not schedule for movement. If this occurs, the customer will be notified by the Clearance Team or their sales contact at Union Pacific. The customer then has the option to either reduce the load or divert it to another location that can handle the heavier weight.

Customers that are planning to ship cars over 268,000 lbs. or less than 42 feet in length should use one of the following options to request an allowable gross weight clearance:

  • For any requests up to five origin and destination points, please complete and submit the Allowable Gross Weight Clearance Request Form
  • For any requests exceeding five origin destination points, please provide Union Pacific with a formatted spreadsheet containing the following information:
    • Shipper and origin; consignee; any applicable care of parties; destination, commodity and routing (including junction point if the load will travel off line), along with a phone number and email address for a response. Email this spreadsheet to the NCSC Clearance Team at clearances@up.com.

Key Points

  • All clearances need to be requested prior to billing shipment.
  • Local UP shipments will be cleared within two business days.
  • Requests exceeding five origin and destination points will take longer to process.
  • Interline movements originating on Union Pacific may take longer to process given the connecting carriers must be contacted to obtain clearances on their lines.

The Allowable Gross Weight Map provided below is for informational purposes and should not be relied on for clearance authority. The map does not show all industry track restrictions. Shippers should always request clearance using the process described above to ensure no delays to their shipments occur. Increasing the weight limits on rail lines is a function of economics. Shippers should work with their sales representative if a need arises to increase the weight limits to allow for heavier shipments.

For general questions regarding rail capacity, please contact the Clearance Team at 800-544-0541 or clearances@up.com.