2017 Wagner Finalist BNSF

Crew Decision Assist: Optimizing Crew Deployment for Freight Trains

Crew costs account for a significant portion of train operating expenses, and so effective crew deployment is an important priority for railroad companies. Motivated by BNSF Railway’s desire to replace the current manual crew planning process with a systematic and efficient approach, we developed an optimization model and solution methodology, and implemented a system called Crew Decision Assist (CDA) to support crew scheduling for single-ended districts at BNSF. Our approach is novel because it incorporates many practical details in train crew scheduling and accounts for uncertainty in train schedules. CDA interfaces with existing systems to quickly generate effective crew deployment plans, and is expected to yield cost savings of several million dollars per year.