BNSF Fights Lower Volumes With Lower Prices

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

BNSF is responding to weak demand for coal and petroleum by lowering its rates for grain and pulse crops.

BNSF is trying to encourage grain producers to move some of their surplus out of storage and into the market.

“BNSF is always evaluating market-based conditions in evaluating rates and, as a result of our recent review, made the adjustments in the northern tier states,” John Miller, group vice-president of agricultural products, was quoted in the Farm and Ranch Guide.

It’s a far cry from May 2014, when BNSF was running two months and 500 car loads behind. Back then it was the overwhelming demand for BNSF’s mobile oil pipeline that was creating rail congestion as 100-car oil trains caused backlogs for grain shippers.

BNSF has cut its price for shipping grain by $100 a carload, and cut the rates $75 per carload for shipping pulse crops, such as peas and lentils.

BNSF is facing soft demand for coal, petroleum, and metallic ores that has only worsened as the year has gone on.

BNSF’s total carloads for coal are down 35.58% year-to-date through April 16, 2016, for petroleum they are down 26.6%, and for metallic ores, carloads are down 37.61%.

Combined carloads, including intermodal freight, are down 7.7% year-to-date from the same period in 2015.

The drop in shipping volume has the railroad idling hundreds of locomotives and furloughing some 400 employees.

© 2016 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.