Frequently Asked Questions About Shipping Dimensional Loads

What is a dimensional load?

A dimensional load is larger or heavier than a typical carload shipment moved by rail. Because dimensional loads cannot move as efficiently as other shipments can in the normal flow of rail traffic, they require additional rail capacity and resources. For those reasons, they usually involve one or more of the following:

  • Special handling and/or switching
  • Additional crews on the train handling the load
  • Additional crews on other trains affected by the train transporting the dimensional load
  • Alternative routing to avoid obstructions and impediments
  • Dedicated train service where only the dimensional load and others like it are handled by a single train

How do I obtain a railroad clearance?

The shipper must receive clearance from the originating railroad. If the origin is located on a short line or handling carrier, then the first line-haul carrier should be contacted. All clearance proposals originating on Union Pacific must be submitted through the Dimensional Load Clearance Form

Union Pacific’s Clearance Department will clear shipments on main line tracks only. Actual loading and/or unloading tracks must be approved through the Union Pacific Rail Access Review process, and a valid Industrial Track Agreement must be put in place prior to shipment.

Union Pacific will assess a charge of $500 for the preparation and provision of a Dimensional Load Clearance Form. The $500 charge must be paid before the Union Pacific Clearance Team can respond to your request. This charge only applies for Union Pacific-created clearance forms and does not apply to clearance forms initiated by other carriers participating with Union Pacific in a particular interline move.

What happens once the clearance request is submitted?

The Union Pacific Clearance Team will review the submitted information and notify you via email once the movement determination has been made. The clearance process could take 30 days or more to process, depending on the complexity of the movement.

What are idlers? How do I know if they are required for my shipment?

Idlers are empty cars placed between a shipment and the next load. Idlers are required for shipments that overhang the end sills of a rail car and/or are of excessive weight as determined by the Union Pacific Clearance Department. Idlers should be ordered at the same time as heavy-duty flat cars.

What is a DSR? How do I know if one is required?

Union Pacific will conduct a Dimensional Service Review (DSR) to determine if operating resources are available to handle a dimensional shipment.

The DSR will be required if any one of the following apply:

  • Shipment width exceeds 13' 2" or 13' 0" on the Northern Region, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Eastern Utah and Wyoming
  • Shipment weight exceeds 500,000 lbs.
  • Required speed is less than 45 mph
  • Special train service is required
  • Schnabel, bolster or overhang cars are required
  • Loads require movement in corridors against the flow of traffic in directional-running territory

How does the DSR process work?

The DSR process works as follows:

  1. The shipper of the proposed movement will submit the Dimensional Load Clearance Form
  2. The Union Pacific Clearance Team will determine if the proposal requires a DSR.
  3. If the proposed shipment does not require a DSR, the proposal will be processed by the Union Pacific Clearance Team, just as it is today.
  4. If a shipment requires a DSR, the proposal will be sent through Union Pacific’s internal DSR process to determine if operating resources are available to handle the proposed shipment within the network. Please note this process is in addition to the current Dimensional Clearance Process.

When both processes have been completed, your Union Pacific Marketing & Sales representative will develop a freight rate applicable to the approved shipment.

What are special train charges and when are they required?

Special train charges apply to any excessive dimensional shipment. Customers will pay special train charges of $120/rail mile, with a minimum charge of $24,000, in addition to regular freight charges.

Purchase of special train services is required when a load meets any one of the following:

  • Single loads 13' 2" or greater in actual width or 13' 0" on the Northern Region, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Eastern Utah and Wyoming
  • Loads with speed restrictions due to weight (greater than 67,000 lbs. per axle) as determined by Union Pacific’s Engineering department
  • Loads with a center of gravity 110.1" or greater above the rail (ATR)
  • All loaded Schnabel cars
  • Loads requiring movement in corridors against the flow of traffic in directional-running territory in order to clear the route
  • Loads measuring less than 4 1/2" ATR (Union Pacific will not handle loads less than 2 3/4" ATR)
  • Any load or equipment with speed restriction less than 40 mph
  • Multiple speed or stop-and-walk restrictions
  • The DSR mandates special train service

Learn More

For additional information on shipping dimensional loads, contact our Dimensional Team at 402-544-4805 or 402-544-4718.