Equipment and Procedures

Rail Equipment

Unit Trains

Unit trains are freight trains moving large tonnages of single bulk products between two points. Unloaded on arrival and returned promptly for another load, such trains cut costs by eliminating intermediate yarding and switching.

Buffer Cars

Buffer cars are to be placed between the locomotive engine and shipments as required by Federal Regulations. Buffer cars must meet the following requirements.

  • Must be a boxcar, covered hopper, gondola or tank car. The buffer cannot be a flat car.
  • Must have a high-strength coupler (grade E coupler).
  • The length of the car must be at least 45 feet and not greater than 75 feet.
  • Must be loaded with a non-hazardous inert material that does not shift in train service.
  • Gross weight of car must be a minimum of 45 tons.
  • It is the responsibility of the shipper to provide buffer cars that are in good mechanical condition. If a car fails inspection, Union Pacific retains the right to refuse to provide train service.

Tank Cars

Approximately 550-725 barrels of crude oil, condensate or NGLs will fit in a single rail tank car. To select the right rail car and proper fleet sizing, consider the following.

  • What is the density, viscosity and API specific gravity of the commodity being hauled?
  • Does the commodity require the use of heating coils or insulation?
  • Does the commodity require a lining?
  • How and where will the car be loaded and unloaded?
  • What is the capacity of the loading and unloading facilities to hold and transfer the commodity?
  • What is the overall duration of the load/empty cycle?

Unit Train Procedures

  • Union Pacific requests that our customers submit a rolling 30-day forecast to the Unit Train Coordinator. Union Pacific understands that in some circumstances it may be difficult to provide a rolling 30-day forecast. Power, crews and other resources are planned based on this forecast, so it is imperative that our customer's forecast is accurate.
  • Customer must provide a minimum of 72 hours notice to the Unit Train Desk prior to departure to determine power and crew availability.
  • Customer will bill the cars once loading is complete, on the scheduled date of shipment. Once the cars are billed, the Unit Train Desk will be automatically notified. Crude Oil customers are responsible for supplying buffer cars for unit train shipments (see “Buffer Car Waybill Procedure from Crude Oil Unit Train Origin” below.)
  • Customers can utilize the Unit Train Customer Interface (UTCI) to monitor the train. Customers will need to call the UTCI contact to register in advance before using the system.
  • The Unit Train Destination will be responsible for empty releasing the cars through UTCI and provide proper billing on the tank cars and buffer cars to the next destination.

Buffer Car Waybill Procedure from Crude Oil Train Origin

  • Loaded waybill must be submitted on each buffer car.
  • Buffer car waybills should reflect commodity STCC code and be designated with the Special Handling Code of "BU".

Buffer Car Waybill Procedure from Unit Train Destination

  • A loaded waybill must be submitted on each buffer car.
  • The waybill should reflect commodity STCC code and be designated with the Special Handling Code of "BU" and destination that empty unit train is returning to.