Author: Jason Seidl, Matt Elkott and Elliot Alper

(Photograph Courtesy of CP)
Commentary

Cowen: ‘Looking Down the Windy Tracks’

A strike has been averted for now as the major unions reached tentative agreements. Contracts details are expected to be in line with the Presidential Emergency Board recommendations. The railroads will have to gradually pass through costs as contracts are renewed if they want to keep margins intact. This may prove difficult as we head into an economic slowdown. We continue to favor Canadian Pacific (CP) in the rail group.

Commentary

NEARS 2022 Conference: Day One Takeaways

At the NEARS (North East Association of Rail Shippers) Fall 2022 Conference, participants say they are still waiting to see consistency in rail service. Technical metrics are gradually improving, but in our view, fluidity will not show significant improvement until first-half 2023. On the first day of sessions (Sept. 21), many attendees expressed surprise that CSX reached outside the rail network for its new CEO. Also, Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman foreshadowed a more proactive STB. Our key takeaways follow.

Commentary

Counting on Rail Congestion as a Rail Equipment Demand Driver is Not a Sustainable Long-Term Strategy

Our July 12 rail equipment expert call takeaways are consistent with J.B. Hunt Transport’s (JBHT) recent comments on about sub-optimal 2Q22 rail service (below). This solidifies our expectation of an eighth consecutive lease rate improvement for GATX, which reports on July 21. We continue to favor the shares into the print as detailed in our July 7 machinery and transportation OEM preview, “Revisions Into the Print.”

According to the Cowen and Company Rail Equipment Survey for 2Q22, it appears that hoppers and gondolas saw demand improvement relative to 1Q22. Containers and centerbeams declined relative to 1Q22.
Commentary

Cowen: 2Q22 Shipper Surveys Say …

According to Cowen and Company’s recently conducted second-quarter 2022 Rail Equipment and Rail Shipper Surveys, the outlook for railcar orders is positive, and rail shipping rates will continue to increase. Details follow, plus insights on the Class I railroads, ahead of earnings.

Commentary

Cowen: Adjusting the Tracks for 2Q22

At Cowen and Company, we are adjusting our railroad estimates ahead of second-quarter 2022 earnings. Continued rail congestion is hindering volume (still below 2019 levels), while pricing is expected to be on par with first-quarter levels.

Commentary

Cowen State of the Ports Conference Call: ‘Railroads the Largest Coming Bottleneck’

Widely reported excess freight from China due to shutdowns appears over-hyped, and a potential upcoming backlog (which is expected to arrive in the last week of June) is likely from inventory pull-forward, equipment challenges, and a challenged rail network. Our panelists—the head of a West Coast port, the CEO of a drayage company, and the CEO of a container consolidator and intermodal company— were bullish of 2022, but expect softness in 2023. Consumers continue to lean into “Dinner and Disney” in a spending shift.

Commentary

Greenbrier: Order Activity Remains Healthy

We hosted virtual investor meetings and a group call with Justin Roberts, Greenbrier’s Vice President Corporate Finance and Treasurer. North American demand remains solid, and the production ramp-up appears set to occur without additional disruptions. In Europe, the Ukrainian conflict seems to have caused transitory headwinds, which, we believe, could create noise. We remain constructive but are slightly cautious in the near term.

Commentary

Suds With Seidl: ‘Rail Service Severely Challenged’

We hosted another Suds with Seidl event featuring leaders across the railroad industry. Rail service continues to be severely challenged, although there have been some slight improvements in recent weeks. Rails continue to have tremendous pricing freedom, and are capitalizing despite service metrics. Intermodal demand remains high, although the recent Blume Global supply chain management platform cyberattack outage has impacted service.

Commentary

Cowen Insight: 1Q22 Shipper Surveys Say …

Cowen and Company transportation analysts Jason Seidl (Managing Director and Railway Age Wall Street Contributing Editor), Matt Elkott and Elliott Alper recently conducted their first-quarter 2022 rail equipment and shipper surveys. Following are the results, plus insights on The Greenbrier Companies Inc. (GBX), Trinity Industries Inc. (TRN), GATX Corporation, and the Class I railroads, ahead of earnings.