Frequently Asked Questions for Shipping Dimensional Loads

What is a Dimensional Shipment?

A dimensional load is a shipment with characteristics that are different from usual carload shipments moved by rail.  It is a load of extraordinary size and/or weight that cannot move as efficiently in the normal flow of rail traffic as other shipments can.  Dimensional loads consume additional rail capacity and resources due to their characteristics.  They usually require one or more of the following:

  • Special handling and/or switching
  • Additional crews on the train handling the load or other trains affected by the train transporting the dimensional load
  • Movements that are more circuitous or "out of route" in order to avoid obstructions and impediments
  • Special train service or dedicated train service where only the dimensional load and others like it are handled by a single train rather than in regular train service

How are dimensional loads handled? How does this effect the transit time?

Dimensional loads usually impede the efficient flow of train traffic on Union Pacific. This effect is the result of speed restrictions placed on dimensional loads so that they can be handled safely.  Most trains handling dimensional loads are restricted to the slowest speed at which the dimensional load can be moved by rail.  That is usually 45 mph or less. Union Pacific's scheduled or timetable speed in many corridors is 60 mph or greater.  Consequently, trains hauling dimensional loads occupy more track time and cause other freight trains to wait longer in terminals or in sidings.

The net result is that unlike standard manifest freight, dimensional loads must be "manually" scheduled from terminal to terminal by the UP Operating Department. This adds significantly more transit time in order to make sure the freight can be handled in a safe manner.

How do I know if my shipment is dimensional or excessively heavy?

A dimensional load is defined as a load with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Width greater than 11' 0" including protrusions
  • Height greater than 17' 0" above the top of the rail
  • Loads that overhang the ends of the rail car
  • Loads weighing more than 220,000 .lbs or requiring more than four axles

All of these types of loads must be cleared by the Union Pacific Clearance Team prior to shipping.

What are the steps involved with shipping dimensional or excessively heavy shipments?

Please follow our Step-by-Step Guide for shipping dimensional loads.

What is an Industrial Track Agreement? Why are they required?

An Industrial Track Agreement is a contract between Union Pacific and the customer for rights to utilize a UP track, private track, or to lease track from Union Pacific.

An Industrial Track Agreement must be in effect before a car can be ordered or shipped.  The track agreement allows Union Pacific to evaluate each shipment and identify the best place to load and unload the commodity.

By submitting a clearance request online, a Rail Access Review is automatically created to start the track agreement process.   Local UP operations personnel will need to approve the loading and/or unloading track.  Once approved, the track agreement will be developed by UP's Real Estate group.  Contact your UP sales representative for an update on track agreement status.

Please visit Industrial Development for more information.

When do I need to contact Industrial Development?

Industrial Development should be contacted whenever a rail car that UP is transporting has to arrive on UP tracks or a private track for loading or unloading and an agreement has not been signed between the customer and UP.  Following are are instances to contact Industrial Development.

  • Locating a potential rail-served facility
  • Relocating your current business
  • Building a new rail-served facility
  • Expanding a current rail-served facility
  • Using a track you plan to purchase (or have already purchased)
  • Using an "out of service" track
  • Finding a track to lease
  • Leasing a track you've "found"
  • Finding a team track
  • Using a nearby team track
  • Purchasing existing track
  • Rail contractors (for maintenance)

Contact a member of the Industrial Development Team for more information.

How do I obtain a railroad clearance?

The shipper must receive clearance from the originating railroad. If the origin is located on a shortline or handling carrier, then the first linehaul carrier should be contacted. All clearance proposals originating on UPRR must be submitted through the Web-based Dimensional Load Clearance Form.

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

*Note: This is a secure site and requires a User ID and password. If you do not have a user ID, you will need to register.

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 UP Clearance Team can respond to your request. This charge only applies for UP-created clearance forms and does not apply to clearance files initiated by other carriers participating with UP in a particular interline move.

What happens once the clearance request is submitted?

The UP Clearance Team will review the submitted information and notifiy you via e-mail once the movement determination has been made.

*Note: The clearance process could take 30 days or more to process depending on the complexity of the movement.

How do I know if I need a heavy-duty or other specialized flatcar?

The UP Clearance Team will make this determination based on the characteristics of the load as submitted in the Dimensional Clearance Request Form. The specific equipment requirements will be included in the proposal response from the UP Clearance Team.

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

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

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

  • Shipment width exceeds 13' 2" (13' 0" on the Northern Region which consists of the following states: 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 requiring movement in corridors against the flow of traffic in directional-running territory

Shipments requiring a DSR will be managed through the following process:

  1. The shipper of the proposed movement will submit the Dimensional Load Clearance Form via the UP Web site.
  2. The UP 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 UP Clearance Team just as it is today.
  4. If the proposed shipment does require a DSR, the proposal will be sent through the DSR process to determine if operating resources are available to handle the proposed shipment. This process will be in addition to the current Dimensional Clearance Process.
  • UP will respond when both processes are complete. (Estimated timeframe is 30 days.)
  • When both processes have been completed, your UP Marketing & Sales Representative will develop a freight rate applicable to the approved shipment.

What is an idler? How do I know if they are required for my shipment?

An idler is an empty car 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 UP Clearance Department. Idlers should be ordered at the same time as a heavy-duty flatcar.

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 (13' 0" on the Northern Region which consists of the following states: 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 UP'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 which measure less than 4 1/2" ATR (UP 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
  • DSR can add special train

How do I order a rail car?

The shipper must order cars from the originating railroad.  If the origin is located on a shortline or handling carrier, then the first linehaul carrier should be contacted.  If UP is the origin carrier, you can order cars as follows:

  • Standard Flat Cars & Idlers (*Note:  This is a secured site requiring a user ID and password.  If you do not have a user ID, you will need to register.)
  • To request heavy-duty flat cars, please contact the UP Dimensional Clearance Department at 800-544-0541 or fax your request to 800-228-5976.  Car orders should be placed at least six (6) weeks in advance of a loading date.

*Note:  A rail car order cannot be placed until all of the following have been completed and verified by the UP Clearance Department:

  1. Movement must be cleared by all railroads.
  2. DSR (if required) must be completed and approved.
  3. A freight rate must be obtained and a UP rate authority must be submitted on the bill of lading.  Team Track or Industry Track Agreements must be signed and in place.  Additional information on Team Track or Industry Track Agreements.
  4. Final origin and destination Zone/Track/Spot must be identified and clearance must match that Zone/Track/Spot.

Who is responsible for loading and securing the load?

The shipper is responsible for loading, tie-down, and securement of the load to the rail car. Prior to movement the shipper is responsible for providing center of gravity measurements on all loads. Lateral and Longitudinal Centers of Gravity must be on center of car in accordance with AAR Rules for Open Top Loading. For additional information please contact Brent Lichty in our Damage Prevention Group:

  • Phone 402-544-6531
  • Fax 402-233-3333

How do I submit shipping instructions?

The bill of lading should be submitted through the web-based Bill of Lading Form.  (*Note:  This is a secure site requiring a user ID and password.  If you do not have a user ID, you will need to register.)

*Exceptions:  Shipments requiring the use of idler cars or bolstered loads cannot be billed via the web-based form.  Please contact the UP Clearance Department at 800-544-0541 to arrange billing for these types of loads.

How do I obtain a freight rate?

Freight rates on machinery not requiring a Dimensional Service Review (DSR) are contained in UP 4467 (Transformers, Turbines, & Generators) and UP 3435 (Other Machinery).  The rates are available on the Price & Transit Time Inquiry page.

Freight rates in UP 4467 (Transformers, Turbines, & Generators) & UP 3435 (Other Machinery) are not applicable for shipments requiring a DSR.  Please contact your Marketing  & Sales Representative to obtain rates for these types of shipments.  If you do not know who to contact, please call 800-877-0513.

*Note:  Clearance and DSR approval must be received before your UP Marketing & Sales Representative can provide you with a rate.

What is the Union Pacific Rail Access Review process?

Union Pacific's Rail Access Review is the process for establishing the required Industrial Track agreement for loading and/or unloading track prior to shipment.   The Rail Access Review requires local operations approval before shipments can safely move to/from specified loading and/or unloading track.