A survey conducted by Railway Age in late 2009 shows that the market for passenger railcars exceeded that for freight railcars last year and may do so again this year.
In 2009, 1,141 new passenger cars worth around $2 billion were delivered to passenger rail operators in the United States and Canada, and on Dec. 31, 2009, manufacturers had a backlog of 2,380 new passenger railcars on order and undelivered.
Approximately 22,650 new freight cars were delivered in 2009, valued at around $1.6 billion. The current estimate for 2010 is 15,750 freight cars.
“This does not mean that freight railroad capital spending is not continuing at a high level,” said Railway Age Publisher Robert P. DeMarco. “In fact, information made available to Railway Age shows that capital investment by our four largest railroads this year will be in the multi-billions, approaching the high levels of the last two years, though the emphasis will be changed.”
“While the freight car market will not heat up until the economy does,” said DeMarco, “the railroads will be spending heavily on new signaling initiatives, to improve safety and add capacity; they will invest in new and expanded intermodal facilities, to handle the fastest growing part of the railroad business as trucks increasingly turn over much of their business to the railroads for the long haul; and improvements to specific freight corridors will continue, in some cases to make room for the new business coming from trucks.
“Meanwhile, the renewed interest passenger rail of all kinds—intercity, metro, regional, light rail—is a welcome change in national transportation policy. It is also of importance to the companies that develop and market the technologies and products that are the key to the future of both passenger and freight rail,” DeMarco said.
As for freight rail capital spending in 2010, BNSF Railway, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific will be committing approximately the same amount as 2009. BNSF plans to spend $2.4 billion; CSX, $1.7 billion; NS, $1.4 billion; and UP, $2.5 billion. While no significant freight car or locomotive acquisitions are planned for this year, a far larger amount of signaling and communications dollars will be applied to Positive Train Control projects than in prior years, due to the federal PTC mandate.
The Federal Railroad Administration has named Dr. Magdy El-Sibaie its new deputy associate administrator for safety, regulatory, and legislative affairs. He succeeds Grady Cothen, who announced late last year that he would retire, but will assist with the transition through March.
El-Sibaie (pictured at left) most recently was acting associate administrator for hazardous materials safety at DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Until last October, he served as FRA’s director of research and development. Prior to that, he served as the agency’s chief of track research, where he managed the FRA’s track inspection technology development program that created improved systems for measuring track geometry at high speeds.
He joined FRA in 1995 as a senior program manager in the Office of Research and Development, chairing a government-industry working group that formulated the first set of safety standards for U.S. high speed rail service. He also worked with rail suppliers and Amtrak to establish standards for Amtrak Acela service operating on the Northeast Corridor.
El-Sibaie earned a doctorate in engineering mechanics from the University of Delaware in 1986, and was recruited by the Association of American Railroads as a researcher at the industry’s Chicago Technical Center, where he is credited with pioneering new methods of computer modeling to measure the dynamic behavior of track under varying loads, speeds, and conditions. For that work, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers honored him in in 1980 with its Rail Transportation Award.
C.H. Robinson, a multimodal logistics company that works with 50,000 transportation providers worldwide, has named Union Pacific Intermodal Rail Carrier of the Year for 2008. This is the first time UP has earned the award.
“Union Pacific was a progressive and strategic supplier in a very challenging year,“ said Steve Weiby, C.H. Robinson vice president. "Its commitment to C.H. Robinson, overall service, and value are just a few of the reasons Union Pacific was chosen. We look forward to strengthening our relationship further in 2010.”
CSX Transportation customers in 2009 committed to invest in 92 new or expanded facilities that will create nearly 1,400 new jobs and ultimately bring $138 million in new revenue to the railroad.
CSXT said the facilities will be built both on CSXT lines and on some of the more than 230 short lines and regional railroads that connect to CSXT.
The projects are situated in 18 states and across markets that include energy, consumer goods and manufacturing, said FredrikEliasson, vice president-emerging markets.
"These projects collectively represent more than $3.2 billion in customer investments in new and expanded businesses on our network," Eliasson said. "These outstanding results are a vote of confidence in CSX as a vital link in economic recovery and one of the most environmentally friendly transportation modes."
In addition, said CSXT, 73 customers who had committed to new or increased rail traffic in 2008 and prior years began moving goods and commodities that at full production will result in more than $210 million in revenue.
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%.