Category Archives: BNSF

BNSF’s Fuel Savings Could Reach 30 Percent With New FLXdrive Locomotives

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BNSF Railway and other railroads could save as much as 30 percent on fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions for an entire train when a new generation of lithium-ion battery-powered locomotives go into commercial service.

Wabtec Corporation’s pilot of its first generation FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive delivered more than an 11 percent average reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for an entire train. It is the equivalent of over 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel saved and approximately 69 tons of CO2 emissions reduced.

The outcomes are the result of a three-month pilot with BNSF Railway, the largest railroad in the U.S., where the FLXdrive, the world’s first 100-percent battery locomotive, was put to the test in revenue service across more than 13,320 miles of hilly terrain in San Joaquin Valley, California – a territory surrounded by mountains. The region is classified as a non-attainment area, where the air quality is worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Wabtec’s next step is to build a second-generation locomotive with a battery capacity of more than 6 megawatt hours – a level of energy that can reduce a locomotive consist’s fuel consumption and carbon emissions by up to 30 percent, even while hauling several thousand tons of freight in a mile-long train.

“The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive is a defining moment for freight rail and will accelerate the industry toward low- to zero-emission locomotives,” said Eric Gebhardt, Wabtec Chief Technology Officer. “It builds upon the rail industry’s position as the most efficient and sustainable mode of transportation. Building on our long history of pioneering train energy management technologies, this demonstration of coupling 2.4 megawatt hours of battery storage into the mix fully validated our assumptions for the potential for this next generation technology to further drive efficiencies and greenhouse gas reductions. At more than 6 megawatt hours, Wabtec’s next version of FLXdrive technology will have an opportunity to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30 percent – putting the industry on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation improvement in energy savings and emission reductions.”

The California pilot program was part of a $22.6 million grant from the California Air Resource Board awarded to Wabtec, BNSF and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The 430,000-pound FLXdrive in the pilot boasts 18,000 lithium-ion battery cells. The battery locomotive charged at the rail yard and recharged during the trip through regenerative braking. The FLXdrive manages the overall train energy flow and distribution through its Trip Optimizer system, an intelligent cruise control system programmed through artificial intelligence to respond to every twist and grade of the track in the most energy-efficient way possible.

A fleet of second-generation FLXdrives could enter supply chain routes in the next few years.

© 2021 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

BNSF Suffers Destructive Fire at Nebraska Terminal

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Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF Railway suffered a major fire at its Alliance Intermodal Facility in Alliance, Nebraska on Sunday, April 11. The fire was in the roof of the structure, but the majority of the damage was caused by smoke and the water used to extinguish the blaze.

The damage was initially estimated at $3 million, including $2 million in damage to electronic equipment.

There were no injuries.

“We did have a structural fire; all our employees were safely evacuated, thankfully,” Amy Casas, senior director of external communications with BNSF Railway, said. “The local fire department managed to extinguish the fire within a few hours. We currently have a temporary worksite set up for any employees who worked out of that building while we conduct inspections and any necessary remediation work to the facility. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.”

Berkshire Hathaway has been snakebit with fires recently, with a major fire destroying a Lubrizol plant in Rouen, France in September 2019. Last month a fire destroyed a Forest River RV plant in Goshen, Indiana, and on April 7, there was a fire at a Johns Manville plant in Winslow Township, New Jersey.

© 2021 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway and BYD, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell a 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 Intermodal Business Continues Strong Showing Over 2020 Levels

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BNSF Railway continues to rack up strong Intermodal shipment numbers with an increase of 14.3 percent year to date as compared to the same period in 2020.

BNSF’s Group Vice President, Consumer Products, Tom G. Williams in testimony on March 10 before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, noted that December 2020 and January 2021 “were the two largest months in BNSF history for moving volume direct to rail off the ports in Southern California. We have called back furloughed employees and pulled railcars and locomotives out of storage to help handle the increased freight demand and drive improved fluidity through this gateway.”

Rail intermodal, which moves shipping containers and truck trailers by rail, has been reaching record levels, and BNSF is the largest intermodal railroad, transporting over a million more intermodal loads annually than its competitors.

Back in July 2020, BNSF noted that the rise in intermodal volume was primarily driven by e-commerce business.

A single train can take upwards of 400 tractor trailers off of highways, saving energy and reducing traffic congestion. Intermodal shipping includes both containers and trailers, and BNSF’s shipment of trailers is up a dramatic 29.76 percent year to date.

This video shows the scale of BNSF’s intermodal trains.

© 2021 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 Railway Gets Patent for Capacity-Boosting Virtual Track Block System

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BNSF Railway Company may soon be carry as much as 25% more freight over parts of its existing rail system, all without building additional track.

BNSF successfully received a patent for a virtual track block system that it says can greatly boost mainline capacity and average track speeds. It can also aid in the detection of broken rails.

The patent issued on January 19, 2021, is described as “A method of railroad track control includes partitioning a physical track block into a plurality of virtual track blocks.”

Using conventional block signaling, track capacity cannot be increased without additional track infrastructure, such as additional signals and associated control equipment. And, conventional block signaling systems cannot identify broken rail within an unoccupied block.

By using “virtual track blocks”, train block spacing is reduced to accurately reflect train braking capabilities. In particular, train spacing is maintained within a physical track block by identifying train position with respect to virtual track blocks within that physical track block. This alleviates the need for wayside signals, since train braking distance is maintained onboard the locomotives instead of through wayside signal aspects. In addition, by partitioning the physical track blocks into multiple virtual track blocks, broken rail can be detected within an occupied physical track block.

© 2021 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 Railway Announces $1.1 billion in 2020 Economic Development Results

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BNSF Railway Company has reported investments from customers served by the freight rail provider in 2020 totaled approximately $1.1 billion.

Large investments from customers including Coldpoint Logistics, Delta Peanut and Ingredion contributed to the sum.

As a result of customer investments, BNSF projects the creation of more than 1,700 new jobs in local communities.

This marks the 10th consecutive year that BNSF customers and local economic development organizations have invested more than $1 billion in a calendar year for new or expanded facilities.

“At BNSF, our rail development program offers unique supply chain solutions that fit our customers’ varied logistical needs.” said Colby Tanner, assistant vice president, economic development. “The flexibility of our program provides our customers with the necessary tools to maximize their investments, while saving them time and money in reaching their distinct markets.”

In 2020, new developments supported a wide variety of commodities including consumer, agricultural and industrial products in communities across the BNSF network. Highlights of supply chain solutions BNSF helped its customers achieve in 2020 include:

• Coldpoint Logistics – With a $25 million investment, the cold storage solutions provider opened phase four of their facility located at BNSF’s Logistics Park Kansas City, adding 150,000 square feet of additional space and creating 75 jobs for local communities.

• Delta Peanut – At their facility in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Delta Peanut invested $70 million to add two tracks to their facility for shipping outbound peanuts, creating 130 jobs.

• Ingredion – Invested more than $100 million in South Sioux City, NE and created approximately 50 new roles in the community.

© 2021 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’s New CEO Has Bias for Growth

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Katie Farmer, the new president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF Railway Company is making no bones about her attitude towards BNSF’s future. It is about growth.

“We have always had and will always have a bias for growth,” notes Farmer, in comments to the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers. “We are a reflection of what goes on in the industrial and consumer economies. And we all know what happens in those economies: Volumes fluctuate, opportunities present themselves, opportunities go away. And so what that means for us is that we always have to be nimble enough and see growth opportunities in advance and prepare ourselves to be able to say yes.”

BNSF has laid out a 2021 capital investment plan of $2.99 billion, which is down just 2 percent from 2020’s $3.08 billion in capital spending.

“Every year through our capital plan, we work to ensure we are able to continue to operate a safe and efficient rail network, provide our customers with the level of service they have come to expect from BNSF as well as position ourselves for future growth opportunities,” Katie Farmer said.

The largest component of this year’s capital plan will be to replace and maintain BNSF’s core network and related assets, much like last year’s $3.08 billion capital program. Maintaining the railroad results in less unscheduled service outages that can slow down the rail network and reduce capacity.

The maintenance component of this year’s plan is $2.41 billion. The projects included in this part of the plan mostly entail replacing and upgrading rail as well as track infrastructure like ballast and rail ties (which are the main components for the tracks on which BNSF trains operate) and maintaining its rolling stock. It will include nearly 11,000 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work and the replacement of 428 miles of rail and approximately 2.6 million rail ties.

Approximately $400 million of this year’s capital plan will be for expansion and efficiency projects, and about $180 million of this year’s capital plan is for freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.

On its Southern Transcon route between the West Coast and the Midwest, BNSF will continue a multi-year effort to add several segments of new double-track in eastern Kansas. Once fully completed, BNSF will have 50 miles of additional main track to support traffic growth.

In addition, in the Pacific Northwest, BNSF will continue a multi-year bridge project near Sandpoint, Idaho to increase train capacity.

© 2021 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 Puts Battery-Electric Locomotives Into Service

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BNSF Railway and Wabtec’s development of potential of battery-electric locomotives has reached another significant milestone this week as they begin testing the technology in revenue service between Barstow and Stockton, California.

As BNSF seeks ways to further reduce its environmental impact, the advancement of battery technology offers some possible solutions.

“We’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to see how this next-generation locomotive performs in revenue service,” said John Lovenburg, BNSF vice president, Environmental. “BNSF is focused on continuing to reduce our environmental impact, and we’re committed to doing our part to test and assess the commercial viability of emerging technologies that reduce emissions.”

The pilot test will run from January until the end of March. If the initial pilot proves successful, BNSF will look to expand testing to other locations and operating conditions on its system.

The battery-powered locomotive will be situated in a consist between two Tier 4 locomotives, creating a battery-electric hybrid consist. When running on the mainline, both the battery-electric and diesel locomotives will power the train. The battery-electric locomotive is expected to reduce the environmental impact from emissions along the route in an efficient manner, while improving the fuel economy for the entire consist by at least 10 percent.

This initiative builds on BNSF’s existing investments in sustainable technologies including idle control, electric wide-span cranes, battery-electric hostlers, automated gates at its intermodal facilities, and Tier 4 locomotives. BNSF partnered with Wabtec on the development of the battery-electric locomotive, which features an overall energy-management system, including onboard energy storage that, when coupled with advanced system-optimization controls, will improve consist and train performance.

“The FLXdrive is the world’s first 100-percent, heavy-haul battery-electric locomotive that optimizes the total energy utilization of the entire locomotive consist,” said Alan Hamilton, Wabtec vice president, Engineering. “This technology works in a manner very similar to how electric vehicles use regenerative braking. It’s a significant step forward for the rail industry and will change the course for even cleaner, more energy-efficient transport.”

The battery-electric locomotive pilot program is part of a $22.6 million grant awarded to BNSF and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District from the Zero- and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) project by the California Air Resource Board to pilot several emissions-reducing technologies in and around railyards. The ZANZEFF project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

© 2020 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 Awards Three Newly-Designated Certified Sites

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BNSF Railway has awarded three new locations its Certified Sites designation. All three new sites will bring their respective state’s total count to two in Kansas, Missouri and Texas.

In order to be considered for the designation, sites must undergo a thorough analysis which includes an evaluation of environmental and geotechnical standards, available utilities, site availability and existing and projected infrastructure. All Certified Sites offer the convenience of direct rail service.

The newly-designated Certified Sites feature hundreds of acres ready for industrial development:

• New Century AirCenter Business Park, New Century, Kansas – Adjacent to Interstate 35 and with quick access to many of the other Kansas City region interstates, New Century AirCenter Business Park consists of 667 available acres located in unincorporated Johnson County, Kansas.
• Wildwood Ranch, Joplin, Missouri – Conveniently located southeast of U.S. Highway 66, Wildwood Ranch comprises 503 acres divided into two main areas that extend into both Jasper and Newton counties.
• Gateway Industrial Park, Gainesville, Texas – Located in northwest Gainesville and near Interstate 35, Gateway Industrial Park has 126 acres ready for rapid development of rail-served industrial sites.

Certified Sites are a part of BNSF’s Premier Parks, Sites and Transload program. The program is a strategic approach that addresses the increasing demand for customer site locations by developing various types of facilities across BNSF’s network. Businesses looking to locate at any of these properties could save six to nine months of construction time as a result of this analysis. BNSF Certified Sites are reviewed by an industry expert in order to ensure accurate, reliable data.

The goal of the program is to provide an inventory of rail-served sites that are available for immediate development.

© 2020 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 a 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 Intermodal Business Up Dramatically

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BNSF Railway has been having a tough year, with overall carloads and intermodal down 8.38 percent from 2019 levels, but there is some very good news. Intermodal shipments, which is one of BNSF strengths, are up a whopping 12.3 percent in the fourth quarter as compared to 2019.

Rail intermodal, which moves shipping containers and truck trailers by rail, has been reaching record levels, and BNSF is the largest intermodal railroad, transporting over a million more intermodal loads annually than its competitors.

Back in July, BNSF noted that the rise in intermodal volume was primarily driven by e-commerce business.

A single train can take upwards of 400 tractor trailers off of highways, saving energy and reducing traffic congestion.

This video shows the scale of BNSF’s intermodal trains.

© 2020 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 Appoints New CEO

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BNSF has announced that Executive Vice President Operations, Kathryn M. Farmer, will become President and Chief Executive Officer on Jan. 1, 2021. As CEO, she will assume leadership of BNSF’s Board of Directors.

Carl R. Ice, current President and Chief Executive Officer, will retire at the end of 2020 and remain on BNSF’s Board of Directors as well.

Farmer has been with BNSF for 28 years, most recently serving as Executive Vice President, Operations since September 2018. In 1992, Farmer joined Burlington Northern as a management trainee and has held leadership positions in every major function of the company including operations, marketing and finance. Prior to her operations role, Farmer led BNSF’s largest business unit as Group Vice President, Consumer Products.

Ice has been with BNSF for 42 years. In 1995, he led a team that orchestrated the merger and subsequent integration of Burlington Northern Railroad and Santa Fe Railway. Since then, he has helped lead the company and culture into what has become the largest Class I railroad in North America. Ice has been integral to the development of the company’s operating and marketing plans.

“I want to thank all of the men and women of BNSF. I am proud of having worked with you and all of the things that we have accomplished together. One of the most important roles of a CEO is to ensure a strong succession plan is in place,” said Ice. “Katie and I have been working toward this plan for a long time. Katie has held many different roles at BNSF with an ever-increasing impact with each new role as she has built trust and confidence throughout BNSF. I am pleased for Katie and the organization knowing BNSF’s future is in good hands. Katie is a shining example of BNSF’s leadership model and BNSF will continue to build upon its legacy.”

As a long-time member of BNSF’s leadership team, Farmer said, “I am humbled and honored to be asked to lead this incredible company and its dedicated employees—men and women that I have worked alongside for almost 30 years. We are well-positioned in our approach to safety and meeting our customers’ expectations while having the necessary capacity to grow with our customers. BNSF has long been a cost leader and we will ensure that continues into the future. I look forward to continuing BNSF’s success.”

“Carl has had a huge impact on this company and this industry having served on BNSF’s leadership team for the entire 25 years of the company’s existence. I have great respect for him and he leaves BNSF well-prepared for the next 25 years,” said Greg Abel, Vice Chairman, Non-Insurance Operations, Berkshire Hathaway. “Katie has had a long career with multiple roles at BNSF which fits well with our efforts to develop our people. Katie’s proven leadership and passion and commitment make her perfect for the role. We’re thrilled that Katie is taking over the role and have the utmost confidence in both her and BNSF’s future success.”

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said, “BNSF is an iconic company and this is a historic day. Carl has been critical to BNSF’s success for a very long time. I thank him for his leadership and his accomplishments. We look forward to Katie’s leadership and more success. She possesses all of the qualities that make us excited about the future.”

© 2020 David Mazor


Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathawa, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell a 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.