The Association of American Railroads says U.S. rail freight traffic remains down in comparison with last year, though Canadianand Mexican railroads are reporting strong gains.
For the week ending Jan. 16, U.S. rail carriers originated 264,030 carloads of traffic, down 0.8% from the same week in 2009 and down 18.5% from the comparable week in 2008.
U.S. intermodal traffic added up to 201,728 trailers andcontainers, up 1.3% from a year ago, but down 12.6% from 2008.
Twelve of the 19 carload commodity groups were up from the same week last year, with eight posting double-digit gains. Increases ranged from 0.3% for coke to 83.2% for motor vehicles and equipment. Declines ranged from 14.5% for coal to 1.3% for the category "all other carloads."
Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Jan. 16 was estimated at 28.7 billion ton-miles, comparable with the same week last year and down 15.6% from 2008.
Canadian railroads reported 73,394 carloads for the latest week, up 24.1% from last year, and 44,268 trailers or containers, up 5.7%. Mexican railroads originated 13,210 carloads, up 21% from the same week last year, and 6,938 trailers or containers, up 41.7%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first two weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 666,886 carloads, down 0.8% from last year, and 498,477 trailers and containers, up 0.3%.
U.S. Class I railroads cut 14,464 jobs between December 2008 and December 2009, with total employment dropping from 161,189 to 146,725, a decline of 8.97%, according to the Surface Transportation Board.
The biggest employment category, train operating crews, lost 8,149 jobs during the 12-month period, a drop of 12.54%.
All employment categories posted lower December 2009 numbers compared with a year ago:
* Executives, officials, and staff assistants: 9,063,-10.72%.
* Professional and administrative: 13,294, -1.98%.
* Maintenance of way and structures: 32,646, -6.60%.
* Maintenance of equipment and stores: 28,344, -7.89%.
* Transportation (other than train and engine): 6,545,-2.81%.
* Transportation (train and engine): 56,833, -12.54%.
Princeton, N.J.-based ALK Technologies, Inc. said Thursday it has launched PC*MILER|Web, anInternet-based version of ALK's PC*MILER software for owner operators, fleets, brokers, or anyone else who needs instant, accurate mileage for rate calculation or truck-specific driving directions and maps.
The new service is available on the web through anyInternet-connected computer, in the office, at home, or on the road, the company said.
PC*MILER|Web replaces ALK's previous web service, eMILER.com, with upgrades that include street-level and hazardous materials routing and routes for an unlimited number of stops. The new service also offers additional reports and mapping functionality. Since it is hosted on the Internet through a tier-one data center, regular updates are available to all users as they are made at no additional cost.
Pricing for PC*MILER|Web is based on a monthly subscriptionrather than eMILER's per-route charges. The company is offering three subscription packages, with varying levels of access to PC*MILER's proprietary North American truck-specific database. ALK is currently offering a free trial of PC*MILER|Web which allows 48 hours of access, obtainable via its website www.pcmiler.com/web.
Amidst preparations to be acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., BNSF Thursday announced its fourth-quarter and full-year 2009 earnings and revenue. Quarterly earnings were $536 million, or $1.55 per diluted share, which included a tax benefit of 25 cents per share related to a fourth-quarter donation.
Those earnings were down 12.8%, or 23 cents per share, from the comparable fourth quarter 2008 earnings of $1.78 per diluted share. But the results still beat analyst estimates of an adjusted profit of $1.22 per share on anticipated revenue of $3.62 billion. Actual fourth-quarter revenue of $3.7 billion was down 15.8% from the comparable quarter in 2008, less severe a decline than the full-year 2009 operating revenue of $14 billion, down $4 billion or about 22% from $18 billion for 2008.
Full-year 2009 earnings were $5.01 per diluted share, compared to full year 2008 earnings reported at $6.06 per diluted share.
“We have seen some improvement in volumes during the second half of 2009 and expect this gradual improvement to continue,” Burlington Northern Chairman, President, and CEO Matt Rose said in a statement. “BNSF will continue to position itself to meet demand consistent with the pace of the economic recovery. And as we look forward into 2010, we are preparing to become part of the Berkshire Hathaway family, pending shareholder approval in February.”
BNSF Railway has unveiled its planned 2010 capital commitment program of $2.4 billion, which it says is approximately $240 million lower than 2009. BNSF attributes the reduction of roughly 9% primarily to fewer expected locomotive acquisitions in 2010.
BNSF currently expects to spend about $2.1 billion for track, signal systems, structures, and freight cars, and to upgrade technologies, including the unfunded mandate for Positive Train Control approved by Congress in late 2008. BNSF anticipates also acquiring approximately 170 locomotives at a cost of about $320 million.
“For 2010, BNSF currently expects to invest approximately $2.4 billion to ensure our infrastructure remains strong and to improve the efficiency of our operations,” said BNSF Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Matt Rose (pictured at left).
“Similar to 2009, we remain committed to making the necessary investments to protect and grow the value of our franchise despite an uncertain economic environment,” Rose said.
Chicago-based GATX Corp. said Thursday it struggled through the "weakest rail market in decades," as it recorded earnings of $21.5 million, or 45 cents per share, for the fourth quarter. That was down 25.6% from $28.9 million, or 58 cents per share, GATX notched in the comparable quarter of 2008. Revenue fell 6.5% to $302.5 million from $323.7 million a year ago.
GATX said the latest quarter included a tax benefit of 15 cents per share, and a loss on interest rate swaps of 5 cents per share. Excluding those items, the company logged earnings per share of 35 cents, roughly in line with analyst estimates of 36 cents per share based on anticipated revenue of $281.7 million.
President and CEO Brian A. Kenney noted 4.1% remains underutilized at present.
Shares of GATX fell roughly 5% in early Thursday trading, but were recovering during early afternoon activity, trading down 3.7%.
Text messaging by a Metrolink engineer was the primary cause of the deadly crash with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., on Sept. 12, 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.
NTSB found that human frailty, and not any malfunction of railroad signaling, was to blame for the incident, which killed 25 and injured more than 100.
"Tragically, an instant message turned an ordinary commute into a catastrophe," said Deborah Hersman, NTSB chairman.
NTSB’s findings come despite testimony by some suggesting that the Metrolink train was cleared to proceed. "All recorded data and physical evidence in this accident are consistent with the Metrolink train failing to stop at the red signal at Topanga and continuing along the main track reserved for the Union Pacific train," said Wayne Workman, NTSB’s chief investigator for the accident.
The incident spurred Congress to pass legislation in October 2008 mandating the installation of Positive Train Control on large portions of the U.S. railroad network, including most lines where freight and passenger trains share rights-of-way.
Jeffrey R. Moreland has been nominated by President Obama to serve on Amtrak’s Board of Directors, as the President attempts to fill four vacancies on the nine-member board.
Moreland, an attorney, was BNSF’s executive vice president for public affairs prior to his 2007 retirement. He also served as a BNSF lobbyist and as its general counsel. Prior to joining BNSF predecessor Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1978, Moreland was an attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Moreland must be confimed by the Senate, along with two other nominees, Anthony R. Coscia and Bert DiClemente, both of whom were namedby the President last November. Coscia is chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. DiClemente is a commercial real estate executive who was an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, now the Vice President.
Union Pacific Corp. Thursday said its fourth-quarter profit fell 17% as volume declined 5%, with net income totaling $551 million, of $1.08 per share. UP notched $661 million, or $1.31 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Revenue fell 12 percent to $3.75 billion from $4.29 billion.
But the largest U.S. Class I railroad’s earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates of $1.04 by four cents. Analysts had anticipated quarterly revenue of $3.78 billion.
“Union Pacific's fourth-quarter earnings reflected the continued impact of the recession that began in 2008,” Chairman and CEO Jim Young said. UP has 4,200 employees furloughed, and 44,000 railcars and 1,600 locomotives stored. Freight revenue again fell across all six of its main businesssegments even though volume improved slightly in its intermodal,agricultural, and automotive sectors.
Young said the economic picture for 2010 looks somewhat more favorable than last year, though the railroad did not provide earnings guidance. UP’s capital expenditures for 2010 are expected to be $2.5 billion (largely in line with 2009), including $200 million allocated for PTC. UP said it would try to put the cost of PTC to chemical shippers, whichare going to require the bulk of the PTCcompliance expenses. Additionally, the railroad expects to spend $150 million of its capital budget on its new Joliet Intermodal Terminal, which is intended to facilitate the conversion of more business from highway to rail.
“Like its eastern counterpart CSX, UP spoke out against current rail legislation (STB reauthorization, a draft of which was recently releaed by the Senate Commerce Committee) and warned that it would cut capital expenditures if costs cannot be recouped,” commented Dahlman Rose & Company Director-Equity Research and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl. ”UP believes that the rail bill needs to focus on the railroads’ ability to earn proper returns. We believe that this newly expressed criticism may stem from the company’s belief that some of the recent political events may present a favorable environment for resuscitating opposition to the bill or allow the rail industry to lobby for a new tax credit. In fact, recent events may push the actual passage of rail legislation to 2011 as it does not rank high on the proverbial totem pole on Capital Hill.”
The bistate Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) says it will spend $12 million to improve its transit hubs in Camden, including $3 million for the Walter Rand Transportation Center in downtown Camden, which serves both DRPA’s PATCO rapid transit line, which ties New Jersey points to Philadelphia, and New Jersey Transit’s RiverLINE diesel light rail transit (DLRT) service, as well as NJT buses.
Construction is set to commence late this year or early in 2011.Roughly $9 million would be applied for unspecified transit-oriented development around Camden’s Broadway and City Hall PATCO stations, both of which are underground.
DRPA says the goal is to attract businesses to the city, considered by many to be among the most beleaguered urban area within the Garden State."This gives Camden a very significant step up to becoming again the vital municipality it once was and can again become," said John Matheussen, chief executive officer of the DRPA. "And transit is key to these kinds of developments."