On Feb. 11, HR 510, which calls for permanence of the 45G short line tax credit, formally received its 100th co-sponsor. The bill, introduced Jan. 11 by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), “has rapidly garnered significant bi-partisan support, as it has every Congress since the credit was introduced in 2004,” said the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). “House support for this legislation is growing at a record pace, with 106 co-sponsors in just four weeks.”
U.S. rail freight traffic rose a negligible one-tenth of 1% in the first week of February 2019, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Feb. 13. An intermodal gain was almost completely negated by a drop in carload traffic.
BNSF Railway will invest $3.57 billion in capital in 2019—a 5% increase from 2018—toward “maintaining and expanding its network with an unwavering focus on operating a safe railroad that meets customers’ demands.”
Wabtec Corp. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Stéphane Rambaud-Measson has resigned from his position and as a Director of the company “to pursue other interests,” Wabtec announced on Feb. 12.
According to the most recent earnings reports, North American Class I railroads are producing record-low operating ratios and posting record-setting earnings. These results strongly suggest that the current operating format of two-person train crews utilizing innovative safety and fuel conservation technologies is helping achieve these desired, value-added financial results. In short, it is possible for innovative technology and human-operated freight trains to exist in a complimentary fashion. The combination is currently working quite well.
The Center for Railway Research and Education in the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University has completed the inaugural session of a new continuing education program focused on sustainability: “Railway Motive Power and Alternative Propulsion.”
Norfolk Southern, at its Feb. 11 Investor and Financial Analyst Conference in Atlanta, said it plans to hold capital expenditures to between 16% and 18% of revenues through 2021, as the railroad targets a 60% operating ratio by that year.
Financial Edge, February 2019: One danger of writing for a monthly periodical is that high-profile situations (say the shutdown of the federal government) might begin and end between two issue publication dates. In a word, to tackle the risk of balancing remaining contemporary without becoming dated, one must be “fearless.”
Watching Washington, February 2019: Sizzle sells product. No wonder the sizzle of ever-lower operating ratios is leading to remarkably higher railroad share prices. But as operating ratios—operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenue—flirt with a sub-60%, the meaning for the longer term is unclear.
I knew Hunter Harrison when he was a Burlington Northern trainmaster and I was a BLET Local Chairman, all those many years ago. Today, as Hunter’s Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) is rolled out on six of the seven Class I railroads, I’ve come to believe that PSRis not a destination, but a never-ending journey. At least that’s how I see it.