Tag Archives: BNSF

Despite PTC Implementation, BNSF Files Extension

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BNSF Railway has announced that as of December 2017 it had fully installed and was operating under Positive Train Control (PTC) on all mandated subdivisions in advance of the December 31, 2018 deadline.

It has now announced that it nonetheless submitted a request to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for a two-year extension of the PTC deadline. The extension is required due to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) current interpretation of the law that full implementation status cannot be achieved until all non-BNSF trains and/or equipment operating on its PTC-equipped lines are also PTC-compliant.

“BNSF has succeeded in the adoption of this key safety technology. Even with this request for a deadline extension, BNSF’s PTC network is installed and we are currently running, and will continue to run, more than a thousand trains daily with PTC as we continue to refine the system and resolve technological challenges,” said Chris Matthews, BNSF assistant vice president, Network Control Systems.

As reported, BNSF completed the installation of all mandated PTC infrastructure at the end of 2017, including 88 required subdivisions covering more than 11,500 route miles on its network. However, to be considered fully implemented requires that all other railroads operating across any of BNSF’s PTC-equipped lines must be capable of operating with BNSF’s PTC system. This interoperability of PTC systems between Class I, commuter and short line rail carriers remains a challenge.

BNSF has successfully demonstrated interoperability with several railroads that operate on its network, including commuter railroads and Amtrak. However, not all railroads that operate on BNSF will have completed their PTC installation by the end of 2018.

© 2018 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 Logistics Acquires Unlimited Freight

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BNSF Logistics, a multi-modal third-party logistics service provider, has acquired Unlimited Freight, located in New Braunfels, Texas.

This acquisition strengthens BNSF Logistics’ service offering for flatbed movements across North America and provides additional local resources to support this global company.

“We are excited to add Unlimited Freight to our family,” BNSF Logistics President Dan Curtis said. “This addition brings talented employees with deep industry experience as well as valuable new customers to our rapidly growing organization and aligns with our goal to increase our geographic footprint.”

© 2018 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 Tops Among Class 1 Railroads

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With its carloads up a strong 10.2 percent year-over-year, BNSF Railway is continuing to power towards an outstandingly profitable year.

The strong gains are the highest of all Class 1 railroads.

Of particular note are higher grain shipments, as well as significant increases in metallic ores and sand/gravel.

The grain shipments mean a record number of trains running through Southwest Washington state. The new record surpasses the previous record set pre-Great Recession in 2006.

Just another sign that this is shaping up to be a very good year for BNSF.

© 2018 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 Proposes Idaho Bridge Project

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BNSF Railway is looking to build a second rail line over Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho to reduce congestion on the current one-lane bridge.

The bridge would be adjacent to the existing rail bridge, and the project also includes new bridges over Sand Creek and Bridge Street in Sandpoint.

In Sandpoint, BNSF’s mainline track merges with Montana Rail Link, creating a bottleneck of multiple tracks merging into a single track across Lake Pend Oreille.

Since only one train can cross at a time, trains are often staged, leaving them idling and blocking local roadways while waiting to cross.

The upgrade will reduce congestion, and help move current freight traffic and future volumes more efficiently.

The bridge will also benefit passenger trains that run on BNSF’s main line.

When the second bridge is completed, trains will run in both directions, reducing the need to idle while waiting to cross the existing single track. As a result, local drivers could see shorter wait times on nearby roads that cross BNSF tracks, and the flow of freight and passenger trains will be improved throughout the region.

© 2018 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.

After 2016 Slump, BNSF Has the Trains Rolling

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Back in 2016, BNSF Railway had a shipping slump that saw it idling over a thousand locomotives,

Now, as shipping numbers continue to climb for the second year, the freight railroad is not only back on track, but the locomotives are back on the track.

At the nadir, BNSF had some 1,200 locomotives in storage. It was a highly visible sign of a lower shipping volumes for coal, petroleum, and metals.

In Gillette, Wyoming alone there were 150 locomotives and rail engines sitting idle.

Now, the 1,200 locomotives in storage has been halved to 600, as combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up a solid 4.87% in the aggregate from the same period in 2017.

Of particular note are higher grain shipments, which as of the week ending April 28, 2018, are up 7.78% over the same period last year.

Back in 2016, BNSF also furloughed roughly ten-percent of its workforce. Now, it is offering bonuses up to $25,000 for new hires.

Just another sign that this is shaping up to be a very good year for BNSF.

© 2018 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 Offering Large Hiring Bonuses

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These are good times to be working on the railroad.

Not so far back in 2016, BNSF Railway was battling lower coal shipping volumes by mothballing hundreds of locomotives and laying off workers. That year it furloughed roughly ten-percent of its workforce.

Lines of idled BNSF locomotives that were in storage on tracks in rail yards near Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas, were a visual reminder that 2016 car loads slumped down dramatically from 2015 levels.

Now, with carload volumes surging 10.6 percent year-over-year, BNSF is hiring and finds itself competing for workers in a tight labor market. As a result, BNSF is offering hiring bonuses of as much as $25,000.

Union Pacific is offering similar bonuses.

The railroads are hiring during a time of very low unemployment. Nationally, the rate is 4.1 percent, but in Nebraska, where BNSF is offering $20,000 for hiring of diesel mechanics and for railcar repair, the unemployment rate is only 2.8 percent.

The incentives come with a 3 year hold-down and are forfeited if the employee leaves the location or job for any reason.

Among the locations where BNSF is offering $25,000 for certain types of jobs include Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Topeka, Denver, and Chicago.

“We are constantly evaluating the market and will use this approach when it makes sense to recruit talented individuals for hard to fill positions or locations,” BNSF spokeswoman Amy Casas was quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

© 2018 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 Carloads Bring Positive News

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Solid carload numbers are continuing to bring good news to BNSF Railway when compared to 2017.

Combined intermodal and carloads numbers are up 4.74% in the aggregate.

Of particular note are higher grain shipments, which as of the week ending April 7, 2018, are up 7.74% over the same period last year.

Also, showing strong numbers are sand and gravel shipments, which are up 8.12%, and petroleum is up 1.31 %.

Noteworthy on the downside are coal shipments, which are -1.94% and motor vehicles shipments are down -3.11%.

2017 was a strong year for BNSF, with the combined carloads including intermodal up 5.48%. So far, 2018 is even better.

© 2018 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 Adding Double Track in Washington & Idaho

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BNSF Railway will expand its northern east-west capacity by adding double track between the Spokane Valley in Washington and Hauser, Idaho.

The planned second 4.4-mile track will run parallel to BNSF’s existing line, and is part of BNSF’s efforts to speed up freight moving from Seattle to the Midwest.

Now in the design phase, the proposed work will see a new railroad bridge built that crosses the Spokane River, modifications of at-grade and overpass crossings, realignment of existing tracks, modifications to existing railroad structures and communication infrastructure.

When built, the double track will have a significant impact on reducing bottlenecks, as roughly 58 trains use the BNSF rail line per day.

By 2035, BNSF is projecting that the number of trains will increase to 114 trains daily.

© 2018 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 Loses Again in Swinomish Oil Train Dispute

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A federal judge’s ruling in favor of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community gives the tribe another 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 can 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.

This time, BNSF challenged the tribe’s ownership of land on which the railroad runs, but U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik rejected their argument.

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.

It is likely that the dispute will go to trial during 2018.

© 2018 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 to Benefit from Amtrak Track Improvements in Southwest US

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BNSF Railways will benefit from track improvements aimed at speeding up Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service that runs daily from Chicago to Los Angeles.

A $16 million grant for track upgrades in Colfax County in northeastern New Mexico has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The funding is part of nearly $500 million in discretionary grant funding for road, transit, maritime and rail projects through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

The Southwest Chief Route Stabilization Project will replace 60-year-old bolted rail, associated turnouts and crossings for a net gain of 42 miles of Class 4 rail in the La Junta subdivision between Hutchinson, Kansas, and Las Animas, Colorado.

© 2018 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.