Tag Archives: BNSF

BNSF to Benefit From $11 Million Oakland Rail Spur

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A refrigerated gateway to Asia for U.S. meat exports has cleared its last big hurdle in Oakland, California.

The access will benefit Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway.

Port of Oakland Commissioners last week approved an $11 million rail spur to Cool Port Oakland. It’s the final piece of an ambitious plan to make this city a vital link in the food chain.

The spur will connect Union Pacific tracks with Cool Port, a 280,000-square-foot distribution center now under construction on 25 acres of Port property.

BNSF will also have rail access to the rail spur at no cost.

When the project is completed, in mid-2018 an estimated 27,000 20-foot containers of meat could ship from Oakland annually. The final destination will be export markets across Asia.

“The concept is to bring vast quantities of chilled or frozen beef and pork to Oakland via the rails,” explained Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. “At Cool Port, the product would be transferred in a temperature-controlled setting from rail cars to shipping containers, then whisked across the street to outbound vessels.”

International logistics specialists Lineage Logistics and local operator Dreisbach Enterprises are building Cool Port under a lease agreement with the Port. The Port has agreed to oversee construction of the 2-mile-long rail spur. The Port will share rail costs with the developers. A $5 million grant will offset part of the cost. Union Pacific will construct a portion of the spur on its property.

Oakland is already a leading U.S. gateway to Asia for agricultural products including meat. Port officials say Cool Port could significantly increase shipments of beef and pork from the Midwest. The products would be exported overseas to satisfy growing Asian demand for U.S. premium meat. Proximity to the docks means cargo could be quickly transferred from rail to ship with minimal cost.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Robust Carload Numbers Mean Good Year for BNSF

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Robust carload numbers are continuing to bring good news to BNSF Railway when compared to 2016 levels.

Slumping volumes in 2016 saw the total intermodal and carload volumes down 4.94% from 2015 levels, with coal shipments slumping 20.88% from 2015 levels.

Coal is still leading the way in the recovery, with shipments up a strong 15.82% through August 19, as compared to the same period in 2016.

Also up a solid 5.77% are intermodal shipments.

While petroleum shipments continue to slide, with year-to-date numbers down 15.41%, the combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up 6.74% in the aggregate.

The rise in shipments has BNSF rehiring 4,000 of the 5,000 employees it laid off in 2015.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

BNSF Profits Close to $1 Billion in 2nd Quarter

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Berkshire Hathaway’s second quarter profits were bolstered by $958 million, as BNSF’s profits rose a dramatic 24 percent.

Higher carload numbers are continuing to bring good news to BNSF Railway as compared to 2016.

Second quarter and first six months of 2017 operating income were $1.8 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively, an increase of $300 million (20 percent) and $389 million (13 percent), respectively, compared to the same periods in 2016.

Total revenues for the second quarter and first six months of 2017 were up 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively, compared with the same periods in 2016. This is a result of increases in unit volume for the second quarter and first six months of 2017 of 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively, and higher average revenue per car/unit.

The increase in average revenue per car/unit in 2017 was primarily due to higher fuel surcharges and business mix changes as well as increased rates per car/unit.

Business unit second quarter and first half of 2017 volume highlights:

• Coal volumes increased 21 percent and 20 percent for the second quarter and the first six months of 2017, respectively, compared with the same periods in 2016, due to mild winter weather in the first quarter of 2016 and higher natural gas prices in the first half of 2017, which led to increased utility coal usage, partially offset by the effects of unit retirements of coal generating facilities.

• Consumer Products volumes were up 6 percent for the second quarter and the first six months of 2017, compared with the same periods in 2016, due to higher domestic intermodal, international intermodal and automotive volumes. The increases were primarily due to higher market share, improving economic conditions and normalizing of retail inventories.

• Industrial Products volumes increased 4 percent and 2 percent for the second quarter and the first six months of 2017, respectively, compared with the same periods in 2016, primarily due to higher minerals, steel, and other commodities that support domestic drilling activity as well as higher taconite. The volume increase was partly offset by lower petroleum products volume due to pipeline displacement of U.S. crude traffic and lower plastics volume.

• Agricultural Products volumes were up 14 percent and 8 percent for the second quarter and the first six months of 2017, respectively, compared with the same periods in 2016, due to higher grain exports.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Carloads Show Positive Numbers for BNSF

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Half way through the year, higher carload numbers are continuing to bring good news to BNSF Railway when compared to 2016 levels.

Slumping volumes in 2016 saw the total intermodal and carload volumes down 4.94% from 2015 levels, with coal shipments slumping 20.88% from 2015 levels.

Coal is still leading the way in the recovery, with shipments up a strong 19.83% year-to-date through July 8, as compared to the same period in 2016.

Also up a solid 5.12% are intermodal shipments.

While petroleum shipments continue to slide, with year-to-date numbers down 14.23%, the combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up 7.49% in the aggregate.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

BNSF Continues To Have Robust Shipping Volumes Compared to 2016

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Higher carload numbers are continuing to bring good news to BNSF Railway when compared to 2016.

Slumping volumes in 2016 saw the total intermodal and carload volumes down 4.94% from 2015 levels, with coal shipments slumping 20.88% from 2015 levels.

This time, coal is leading the way in the recovery, with shipments up a strong 21.72% year-to-date through June18, as compared to the same period in 2016.

Also up a solid 4.9% are intermodal shipments.

While petroleum shipments continue to slide, with year-to-date numbers down 13.22%, the combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up 7.77% in the aggregate.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

GEICO Besting Esurance in Illinois

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GEICO Casualty has been gaining customers in Illinois while its competitor, Allstate’s Esurance, has seen policyholder slippage.

Esurance’s total Illinois policyholders dropped 4% from the prior year to 49,317, according to its June 12 filing with the Illinois Department of Insurance. Nationally, its total policyholders fell 2% to 1.4 million from 1.43 million.

In contrast, GEICO Casualty’s Illinois policyholders grew to 212,029 policyholders as of March 31, which is a strong 15% increase from 183,644 policyholders.

In 2011, Allstate bought Esurance and Answer Financial from White Mountains Insurance Group for roughly $1 billion. Esurance sells auto insurance directly to customers online and through call centers. The unit has never turned a profit, and Allstate has responded by slashing its advertising budget.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Swinomish Tribe Gets Big Win Against BNSF

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A federal judge’s ruling in favor of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community gives the tribe a major victory against BNSF Railway in their dispute over oil trains crossing tribal land.

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community initially filed their lawsuit in March 2015. In September 2015, a federal judge ruled affirming the Native American tribe’s right to sue the railroad for violating the terms of a Right-of-Way easement granted to allow the railroad to cross the reservation.

The Easement Agreement enables BNSF to bring Bakken crude oil to the Tesoro refinery by crossing a portion of the Swinomish Indian Reservation located on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, Washington.

Under the terms of the 1991 Easement Agreement, BNSF is allowed to run one 25-car train per day in each direction. The tribe sued contending that BNSF was running as many as six 100-car “unit trains” per week.

On Thursday, June 8, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik granted the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s motion for reconsideration.The ruling reverses the court’s prior ruling that the case should be decided under state law, noting that ”the Court incorrectly analyzed the breach of contract and trespass claims as if they arose under state law. Issues pertaining to tribes, including actions for trespass on tribal lands, are the exclusive province of federal law.”

In its decision, the court decided that the tribe’s treaty rights trumped any interstate commerce laws.

“The correct analysis when considering the Tribe’s treaty-based federal common law claim is not whether the requested relief would interfere with rail transportation, but whether Congress intended to repeal the Treaty of Point Elliott when it enacted the ICCTA. The Court finds that it did not,” Judge Lasnik ruled.

The History of the Dispute

Train travel across the tribe’s land has a long contentious history, with the original track having been laid in the late 1800s without consent from the Swinomish or the U.S government. The tracks cross the northern edge of the reservation, and the Swinomish, as the present day political successor-in-interest to certain of the tribes and bands that signed the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, first sued the railroad in 1976, alleging a century of trespassing on tribal land. The resulting settlement led to the 1991 Easement Agreement that allowed only the 25-car train limit without the Tribe’s permission.

The Tribe contend in its lawsuit that “BNSF never notified the Tribe that it intended to exceed the limitation of one train of 25 cars or less, nor did it request permission from the Tribe before it began to do so.”

A Deal is a Deal

“A deal is a deal,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “Our signatures were on the agreement with BNSF, so were theirs, and so was the United States. But despite all that, BNSF began running its Bakken oil trains across the Reservation without asking, and without even telling us. This was exactly what they did for decades starting in the 1800s.”

“We told BNSF to stop, again and again,” said Cladoosby. “We also told BNSF: convince us why we should allow these oil trains to cross the Reservation. And we listened for two years, even while the trains kept rolling. But experiences across the country have now shown us all the dangers of Bakken Crude. It’s unacceptable for BNSF to put our people and our way of life at risk without regard to the agreement we established in good faith.”

Under the terms of the Easement Agreement, the Tribe agreed not to “arbitrarily withhold permission” for BNSF’s request to increase the number of trains or cars.

Is it Arbitrary?

The Tribe contends that its refusal to grant permission is not arbitrary and is “Based on the demonstrated hazards of shipping Bakken Crude by rail, paired with the proximity of the Right-of-Way to the Tribe’s critical economic and environmental resources and facilities — and the substantial numbers of people who use those resources and facilities on a daily basis — the Tribe is justifiably and gravely concerned with BNSF’s shipment of Bakken Crude across the Right-of-Way in a manner and in quantities at odds with the explicit terms of the Easement Agreement.”

The Swinomish are concerned that trains carrying Bakken crude oil run over bridges spanning the Tribe’s fishing grounds in the Swinomish Channel and Padilla Bay. They also noted that the track runs across the “heart of the Tribe’s economic development enterprises,” which includes the Tribe’s Swinomish Casino and Lodge, a Chevron station and convenience store, and an RV Park, as well as a Tribal waste treatment plant.

The Tribe noted that these enterprises are the “primary financial source for funding of the Tribe’s essential governmental functions and programs.”

The 1991 Easement Agreement granted the Right-of-Way for an initial 40-year term, along with two 20-year option periods. The current agreement will expire no later than 2071.

The tribe is seeking a “permanent injunction prohibiting BNSF from (1) running more than one train of twenty-five cars or less in each direction over the Right-of-Way per day and (2) shipping Bakken Crude across the Reservation.”

The Swinomish are also seeking monetary damages for the prior trespasses and breach of contract in an amount to be determined at trial.

Unfortunate Words for BNSF

In its ruling, the court also made clear that the tribe’s claims of a breach of contract were valid, noting that “the Court found that there was no genuine issue of fact regarding the existence of a breach.”

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Rise in Carloads Show Good News for BNSF

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Higher carload numbers are continuing to bring good news to BNSF Railway when compared to 2016.

Slumping volumes in 2016 saw the total intermodal and carload volumes down 4.94% from 2015 levels, with coal shipments slumping 20.88% from 2015 levels.

This time, coal is leading the way in the recovery, with shipments up a strong 22.56% year-to-date through May 27, as compared to the same period in 2016.

Also up a solid 4.55% are intermodal shipments.

While petroleum shipments continue to slide, with year-to-date numbers down 13.07%, the combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up 7.53% in the aggregate.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

BNSF Continues Layoffs Due to Soft Coal and Oil Demand

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BNSF Railway continues to trim its workforce, which continues a process that was particularly heavy in 2016.

In 2016, BNSF furloughed about 4,600 workers.

The most recent to face layoffs were 55 workers at the Glendive diesel shop in Glendive, Montana. The layoffs are classified as permanent, and the shop will continue to employ roughly 60 workers.

A spokesman for BNSF cited lower demand for coal and oil shipments as the reason for the layoffs.

System-wide, BNSF’s 2016 carloads were down significantly from 2015 levels. There were a total of 480,000 fewer unit trains than in the prior year.

Things have been looking up in 2017, with total carloads including intermodal up a robust 7.25% system-wide. However, the freight hauler has been working actively on making itself more efficient, which enables it to do the same work with fewer employees.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

BNSF Sees Light at End of Tunnel with Higher Shipping Volumes

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Things are turning around at BNSF Railway now that higher carload numbers are continuing to remain strong.

Slumping volumes in 2016 saw the total intermodal and carload volumes down 4.94% from2015 levels, with coal shipments slumping 20.88% from 2015 levels.

This time, coal is leading the way in the recovery, with shipments up a robust 19.11% year-to-date over the same period in 2016.

Also up a solid 4.26% are intermodal shipments.

While petroleum shipments continue to slide, with year-to-date numbers down 10.14%, the combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up 6.15% in the aggregate.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.