BNSF pauses on tank car purchase

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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BNSF Railway is taking a second look at an earlier plan to purchase up to 5,000 tank cars for hauling oil products, following feedback from some of its customers, according to BNSF Chairman Matt Rose.

“At first everybody applauded us for doing it,” Rose acknowledged during a a panel discussion on crude-by-rail (CBR) transport held on Sunday at the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. “We’re going to go back and talk to our customers and see what they want us to do.”

Rose noted that CBR accounted for just 4% of BNSF’s overall traffic, despite the publicity such business has generated. “Most people think it’s 25% of our business,” he said, but coal and ethanol shipments account for a substantial part of the Class I railroad’s energy-related business.

BNSF had said new tanks cars, supplementing and then replacing the current DOT 111 standard equipment still in use across North America, would reduce CBR risks and improve safety. But, he said, “There is a general belief that this may interject a different type of car in a different part of our supply chain.”

”If our customers do not want us in this business, we’ll re-evaluate. We’ll do something else,” Rose added.

Rose said BNSF in any event will delay any purchase of new gear until the Federal Railroad Administration and the Department of Transportation set the new regulations, expected in the first quarter of this year.

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