The American Trucking Associations (ATA) reports that U.S. truck tonnage in October was down just 5.2% from October 2008, "the best year-to-year showing" since November 2008.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the improvement shows that the economic recovery is "still trying to gain balance. The trucking industry should not be alarmed by the small decreases in September and October. The economy is behaving as expected, with starts and stops,” he said, adding that despite "ups and downs" in coming months, the trend will be moderate improvement.
ATA calculates truck tonnage each month based on reports by its member companies.
Their success in sizing operations to demand helped Class I railroads maintain a relatively high return on investment (ROI) during the 12 months ended Sept. 30.
During a period that contained many of the worst months of the recession, the industry earned an average return of 8.42% on its net investment, compared with 9.88% in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2008, according to the Surface Transportation Board.
BNSF Railway earned an ROI of 9.27% during the latest 12-month period vs. 10.66% a year earlier. Union Pacific's respective returns were 7.88% and 9.62%.
In the East, Norfolk Southern experienced one of the biggest swings in ROI, dropping to 9.48% from 14.42%. CSX Transportation posted a return of 8.15% this year vs. 8.55% in the same period last year.
Kansas City Southern earned an ROI of 0.38% this year, down from 8.70%. Soo Line's return declined to 9.79% from 15.84%. CN/GrandTrunk's ROI dropped to 6.05% from 10.97%.
Industry-wide, total railway operating revenues in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2009, dropped sharply to $49.9 billion from the $58.4 billion reported a year earlier. Net railway operating income, on which ROI is based, dropped to $5.7 billion from $7.2 billion.
Dallas-based DRI Corp. said Tuesday its Swedish-based subsidiary, Mobitec AB, through its Mobitec Brazil Ltda. business unit, won an order from Bombardier Transportation for electronic information display systems (EIDS) to be used in the modernization of the Sao Paulo, Brazil, regional rail system.
Last June a consortium led by Bombardier was awarded a $193 million contract to modernize 156 electric multiple-unit (EMU) passenger rail cars (26 six-car trains) by Companhia do Metropolitano de Sao Paulo (CMSP), the state-owned transit operator that runs the Sao Paulo metro system. The Bombardier consortium includes two Brazilian partners: Temoinsa and Tejofran.
DRI Chairman, President, and CEO David L. Turney said, “Bombardier has ordered Mobitec Brazil's EIDS products for approximately 50 light rail cars in Sao Paulo. This order is strategically relevant because it marks our official entrance into the Brazilian rail market. Delivery of the order has commenced and is expected to conclude in first quarter [of] 2010.”
Turney added, “We foresee good demand for rail cars in Brazil, particularly as the region invests in transit infrastructure inpreparation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup™ in 2014 and the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in 2016."
Reacting to a failure to reach agreement with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, Canadian National has announced it will unilaterally increase wage rates and apply a change to the mileage caps for the company's locomotive engineers the union represents in Canada on CN. CN said its response comes after its collective bargaining with TCRC ended Nov. 20 without a settlement. The contract changes are to take effect beginning early Saturday morning, November 28. TCRC's current labor agreement with CN expired Dec. 31, 2008.
CN says it had informed the union last weekend of its intention to increase the engineers' wages by 1.5% and implement only one work rule change. At present, TCRC-represented conductors have a 4,300-mileage cap limitation, and TCRC-represented engineers have a 3,800-mile cap. With the work rule change, both groups of employees working in the locomotive cab will be working under one consistent rule, and the engineers will see an overall increase in their compensation. On average, CN says, its locomotive engineers presently work between 15 and 17 days per month.
CN says it has made several different offers to resolve these collective agreements, but claims all have been rejected by the TCRC. “CN also offered to refer the matters in dispute to binding arbitration, but the TCRC rejected this option as well,” the Class I railroad said in a statement. Under terms of the Canada Labour Code, the TCRC and CN are entitled to engage in a strike or lockout upon 72 hours' notice to the other party.
Germany's Rhein Main Services (RMS) has selected Cubic technology for the country's first large-scale electronic ticketing system. The system will serve a region with a population of more that five million where an estimated 650 million journeys are taken annually on public transport.
RMV ordered the system on behalf of the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV). The RMV and its partners operate trains serving 600 stations, along with 3,300 buses.
The work will be performed through Cubic Deutschland, part of the transportation segment of San Diego-based Cubic Corp. a global provider of fare collection systems and ticketing services.
Steve Shewmaker, president of Cubic Transportation Systems worldwide, said: "While this contract is our largest in Germany, we also have contracts with RMV and other German cities to extend the use of mobile phones for electronic ticketing. We expect to merge these efforts in the future and provide Germany with some of the most modern and efficient electronic ticketing in the world."
The Federal Railroad Administration has refused to issue an emergency order banning the use of one-person crews in conventional and remote control yard switching operations, but it pledged to monitor them "very closely." The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers-Teamsters and the United Transportation Union filed a petition in June seeking the prohibition.
“Because of the advances in technology, we are seeing significant changes in operations–many that never existed before. FRA will continue to look very closely at these changes," the agency said ina letter to the two unions.
FRA said it has"no factual evidence" to support a ban on one-person crew operations. "Switchmen, trainmen, and RCOs routinely perform tasks alone, even when on a two-person or three-person crew," noted the agency.
FRA acknowledged that "since these particular one-person operations are new, we have no prior data with which to compare conventional operations and have little prior experience with these operations. Accordingly, we intend to monitor these operations very closely. While there may be operations where a one-person crew can function safely, there may be other operations that are unsuitable for such operations."
"As technology advances," said the letter, “FRA is also aware that the transfer of certain additional tasks and responsibilities to a single individual may result in 'information overload' and/or diminished 'situational awareness.' We believe these conditions should be considered when changing work assignments or adding new technology. Inthis vein, FRA recommends that safety impact studies be conducted prior to implementing such changes.
"FRA understands that fatigue may play a role in human-factor caused accidents. As the duty tour unfolds, employees tire and may become less coherent. As a consequence, FRA has encouraged the development of fatigue mitigation programs."
UTU International President Mike Futhey said the fight against one-person crews “will remain the UTU's top priority–before the FRA and before Congress. We know, and the BLET agrees, having stated jointly with us in the petition for the emergency order, that no conditions exist where one-person operations are safe.”
Canadian Pacific is readying a pilot test of Positive Train Control on its right-of-way linking Calgary and Red Deer, in Alberta, next year to test its efficiency in reducing human error as a potential cause of accidents. CP is preparing to comply with a mandate passedby the U.S. Congress in late 2008 requiring PTC across most of the U.S. rail freight network, prompted by the collision of a freight train and passenger train in Chatsworth, Calif., on Sept, 12, 2008, which killed 25.
"Human factor causes for accidents is a very small number, industry-wide," said Chris Carroll, CP director of operations, positive train control. "But they are also the accidents that can have grave consequences ... We are doing a pilot project of the technology thatwill be used in the U.S.” CP’s U.S. subsidiaries include Soo Line Railroad and the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.
CP recently completed a GPS survey of the Calgary to Red Deer track last week. "We will develop a database over the nextmonth," said Carroll. "We are spending quite some time in the lab. We will put this technology into work next summer and test trains."