Machinery and Oversized Shipments FAQs

Is my load oversized or of excessive weight?

Excess oversized loads are described as any load on a railcar exceeding 17 feet above the top of rail and/or 11 feet wide. Additionally, loads that overhang the end sills of the railcar are classified as oversized loads. Easy access to our weight restriction maps lets you know if your shipment is of excessive weight while on BNSF. Shipments exceeding provided parameters are subject to operating schedules and windows and therefore subject to delays not otherwise affecting normal carload shipments.

What is the process to move a load with excess dimension or weight?

The process begins with the shipper following the step-by-step guide for shipping oversized loads. See oversized shipments to view this process.

Which railroad do I contact to obtain rates, request cars or obtain a clearance?

The shipper must receive clearance, obtain rates and request cars from the originating railroad. In the case of a load originating on a shortline railroad, the first linehaul or roadhaul carrier should be contacted.

How do I submit my lading information to obtain a railroad clearance?

Complete the Oversized Clearance Request Form, by logging into our website. For instructions on how to register on our website or access the form, see oversized shipments.

What happens once I submit my information for clearance?

The BNSF Clearance Department reviews the submitted information. Once a determination is made, the customer will be notified via e-mail.

What are the next steps once BNSF determines my train shipment can physically clear on the railroad?

Obtaining approval for physical clearance does not constitute operational clearance or authority for the shipment described in the clearance request to move on the BNSF network. Once physical clearance has been obtained, your shipment must be submitted for operational and risk management approval. Contact your marketing representative for more information prior to initiating loading or movement.

What is an idler and how do I know if it is required for my shipment?

An idler is an empty car placed between your shipment and the next load. Idlers are required for shipments that overhang the end sills for the railcar and/or are of excessive weight as determined by BNSF's Engineering Department. Idlers can be requested when requesting the heavy-duty flatcar.

How do I request a railcar?

1. To request heavy-duty flatcars, complete the Oversized Equipment Request Form by logging into our website. For instructions on how to register on our website or access the form, see oversized shipments.

2. To order a standard flatcar, please contact Equipment Distribution.

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

The Clearance Department will make this determination based on the characteristics of the load as submitted in the Oversized Clearance Request Form. This information will be included in the proposal response from BNSF's Clearance Department.

Who is responsible for loading, tie-down and securement of loads?

The shipper is responsible for loading, tie-down and securement of shipments to the railcar. BNSF Mechanical offices can provide requirements or a copy of the Open Top Loading Manual can be purchased from the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Please see the contact page for contact information.

How do I release an oversized load?

All loaded oversize shipments must receive securement inspection and measurements prior to shipment from the originating rail carrier. Please see Step 5 - Receive Inspection (links to Shipping tab and to the "Get Inspected (2 days before shipment)" section for contact information.

What are special train charges?

Special train charges are applied to moves that require special handling. Written authorization for special train service is required in advance of train movement. Special train service and charges are in addition to regular freight charges.

When are special train charges applied?

Special train charges are assessed for one or more of the following reasons but are not limited to the following:

  • High combined center of gravity, in excess of 106 inches ATR
  • Speed restricted cars or restrictions placed on shipments limiting speed to less than 45 mph
  • Extreme width of load over 13 feet, 2 inches
  • Multiple speed or stop and walk restrictions

When is circuitous routing required?

Circuitous routing can be required when a load is of excessive size or weight. The routing is necessary to move the load safely to destination. A circuitous routing will affect the freight rate and transit time.