This article is taken from the Aug. 3 USDA Grain Transportation Report.

Up 22.2 Cents, Diesel Price Tops $4 per Gallon
According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, for the week ending July 31, the U.S. average diesel fuel price rose 22.2 cents from the previous week to $4.127 per gallon. However, this price is still 101.1 cents below the same week last year. The most recent price rise is the largest since the 40.1 cent increase for the week ending March 14, 2022.

This week’s diesel price is also the highest since the $4.128 per gallon price for the week ending March 27. The most recent increase reflects the strong global demand for oil, as well as the impact of multiple cuts in oil production. OPEC+ members cut 1.16 million barrels a day at the beginning of May, and in July, Saudi Arabia cut another 1 million barrels a day, which was extended into August and may be extended again. For the week ending July 31, prices rose in all 10 EIA regions, with the Midwest showing the largest week-to-week rise of 29.1 cents per gallon.

Kansas Makes $10 Million Available for Short Line Railroad Improvement Projects
The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is now accepting applications for $10 million of funding available through the State’s Rail Service Improvement Program. Grant recipients are required to provide 30 percent of the total project cost. Qualified entities include any Class II or Class III railroad (i.e., a short line railroad), a Kansas port authority, or any owner or lessee of an industry track located on or adjacent to a short line railroad in Kansas. Kansas’s Rail Service Improvement Program replaces the State’s Short Line Rail Improvement Fund program (Grain Transportation Report, March 16, 2023, second highlight). Short lines provide rail access for rural grain producers and reduce overall reliance on trucks, resulting in lower emissions and less road congestion and maintenance. However, government funding is often needed for adequate resources to maintain short line tracks. Applications are currently being accepted on KDOT’s website through September 1. Grant-recipient projects are expected to be announced in spring 2024.

FRA Seeks Input on Plan To Collect Train Length and Safety Data
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has requested public comments on a proposal requiring Class I railroads to provide certain monthly data. FRA plans to collect data related to train lengths, tonnage by specified train length categories (over and under 7,500 feet), and a number of safety concerns—such as the number of emergency events, the number of communication event losses, and certain equipment malfunctions.

This data collection proposal follows two FRA safety advisories issued earlier this year. One advisory notes “three significant incidents … have occurred since 2022 involving trains with more than 200 cars, where train handling and train makeup is believed to have caused, or contributed to, the incidents.” Grain shuttle trains typically comprise about 110 cars and are approximately 7,000 feet long, so most shuttle trains would not fall under FRA’s longer (over 7,500 feet) category. However, grain cars can also be shipped as part of longer manifest trains—which move various types of railcars and commodities. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before September 19.