February, 2009 - jstagl - Editors' Posts - MyProgressiveRailroading
    • 10 Feb 2009

    UTU's Szabo the next FRA Administrator?

    The next FRA administrator might be Joseph Szabo. At least according to a Bloomberg news report issued yesterday. The United Transportation Union’s state director for Illinois is President Barack Obama’s top candidate for the job, the report states. A former yard switchman, road trainman and commuter-rail conductor for the Illinois Central, Szabo has served as state director of the UTU Illinois Legislative...
    • 29 Jan 2009

    Class Is cite workforce, production cutbacks during 4Q conferences

    Because of steep traffic declines associated with weak freight demand, the Class Is are shrinking their workforces and whittling down their rolling stock fleets. Senior executives at the six largest Class Is broached the subject during their fourth-quarter earnings conferences held the past week. Union Pacific Railroad EVP and COO Dennis Duffy said the Class I furloughed 3,150 workers — mostly train and engine...
    • 7 Jan 2009

    Indiana Honda plant a prime example of short lines' marketing potential

    On Dec. 2, a monumental event occurred in the short-line industry. A Central Railroad Co. of Indiana (CIND) train moved the first batch of vehicles to be transported by rail from a new Honda Motor Co. automotive plant in Greensburg, Ind., to Cincinnati, where the short line interchanges with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway. Doesn’t sound too earth-shattering? Here’s why it is: The Honda...
    • 19 Dec 2008

    CSX's '09 agenda includes ONE Plan overhaul

    Make a good thing better. That’s what CSX Corp. is aiming to do with the ONE Plan. Since the Class I rolled out the operational planning/execution software tool in second-half 2004, the railroad has reduced train starts about 6 percent, eliminated terminal handlings, increased car velocity and cut transit time between origins and destinations (O-D) for certain shipments. Now, the One Plan — which CSX has...
    • 25 Nov 2008

    Crude oil key to Watco short lines' traffic growth

    There are several traffic segments that pose the biggest carload-growth opportunities for short lines. Ethanol, certainly, is No. 1. Intermodal traffic, which has been soft throughout 2008, still is a top draw. And old standbys coal and grain remain high on the list. But here’s one that isn’t in the Top 10: crude oil. That’s not a surprise because the United States isn’t a major oil producer...
    • 8 Oct 2008

    For NS, a few steps to self improvement

    It’s hard to find your way on a long journey on an unfamiliar route without a road map. For Norfolk Southern Corp. , the directional tool that will guide the Class I down the right self-improvement path the next few years is “Track 2012.” An initiative launched in the third quarter, Track 2012 sets specific goals for improving safety, operational and financial performance. The initiative will be the...
    • 10 Sep 2008

    Railroaders among the ranks of the unemployed

    In August, the U.S. unemployment rate reached 6.1 percent — the highest level in five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate has steadily risen after reaching 5 percent in April and 5.7 percent in July. U.S. employers shed 84,000 jobs in August — the eighth-consecutive month of significant cuts. Since January, 605,000 jobs have been eliminated. The rail industry hasn’t been...
    • 3 Sep 2008

    Rail-car supply more of a concern to shippers than the economy, informal poll shows

    The North American economy isn’t strengthening, but it isn’t weakening a whole lot, either. And rail-car supplies are getting tighter. At least, according to the opinions of two dozen rail shippers. With an assist from the helpful folks at the National Industrial Transportation League, Progressive Railroading last month polled the shipper organization’s nearly 600 members. Among 10 survey questions...
    • 8 Aug 2008

    NS shifts automotive equipment gears to match car-buying pattern shifts

    As is the case for all Class Is, automotive traffic volumes are down at Norfolk Southern Corp. — way down. Automotive carloads dropped about 12 percent in the second quarter to 116,300 units after tumbling 11 percent in the first quarter to 119,600 units because the weakening economy and skyrocketing gasoline prices are reducing vehicle sales. During an Aug. 7 visit to NS’ Norfolk, Va., headquarters, the...
    • 22 Jul 2008

    No horsing around: Operation Lifesaver promotes crossing safety to equestrian set

    When you think about the potential victim of a grade crossing accident, a motorist or truck driver comes to mind. But a horse? Yet, a collision between a train and horse tow vehicle or trailer at a crossing often causes a horse fatality, according to USRider, which provides nationwide roadside assistance to equestrians. So, USRider has teamed up with Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) to develop a crossing safety brochure...
    • 9 Jul 2008

    Two chemical shippers turn to their customers to help foot transportation bills

    Railroads and trucking firms long have added fuel surcharges to shippers’ freight bills to compensate for diesel cost escalations. But now, with diesel prices and surcharges at record levels, two chemical shippers are passing their staggering transportation costs onto customers through their own fuel surcharges — something I don’t remember occurring in my eight-plus years of covering the rail industry...
    • 13 May 2008

    Networking opportunity: NS and 10 New York short lines to jointly test market ‘single-line’ moves

    Record attendance and an all-time-high number of railroad representatives were hot topics in the exhibit hall, general session ballroom and break-out session salons at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s (ASLRRA) annual meeting held May 4-6 in San Antonio. The event at the Marriott RiverCenter drew 1,500 people vs. 1,128 registered for last year's Baltimore conference, as well as more...
    • 29 Apr 2008

    The after-effects of 'after train hits car'

    As I was perusing the headlines on the news wires April 28 — something I do every morning to keep up with rail industry doings — I noticed this one from the AP: “Driver, 3 Children Unharmed After Train Hits Car in North Florida.” The AP reported that a “train hit a car carrying three children” near Live Oak, Fla., on April 27. Thankfully, there were no injuries to the 27-year-old...
    • 8 Apr 2008

    No more state funds for crossing repairs means Michigan short line adopts surcharge

    Railroads long have been passing on higher diesel costs to shippers through fuel surcharges, but how about the cost to maintain grade crossings? Saginaw Bay Southern Railway (SBS) has instituted a surcharge of $20 per car to cover a portion of expenses incurred to maintain crossings to Michigan Department of Transportation standards. The DOT recently decided to no longer fund repairs to state highway crossings. ...
    • 13 Mar 2008

    Word on the Street: U.S. railroads are solid, fundamentally speaking

    Even though the Standard & Poor's 500 index is down about 6 percent so far this year, the Dow Jones transportation average is up about 4 percent. What’s a major factor behind the healthy transportation index? U.S. railroads, which are employing solid fundamentals, according to online news items quoting Wall Street analysts that I’ve read recently. The Dow Jones U.S. Railroads Index — which...
    • 5 Mar 2008

    Research rules in a capacity context at AAR's annual TTCI event in Colorado

    Greetings from Pueblo, Colo., a town local officials refer to as the “City of Excellence” and Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials call research city. It’s here that AAR subsidiary the Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) runs a major railroad research facility and hosts an annual research review. I attended the first — and busiest — day of this year’s AAR Research...
    • 11 Feb 2008

    Beijing Olympic Games no boon for North American intermodal industry

    The Summer Olympic Games are coming to Beijing, China. Excitement is building among athletes preparing for the August games, people arranging vacations and purchasing tickets for the worldwide event, and NBC officials readying plans to televise the 29th Summer Olympiad. But anyone associated with the North American intermodal industry can’t be too enthused, unless they’re eagerly awaiting hours of gymnastics...
    • 21 Jan 2008

    Signs point toward a recession, not a rail traffic rebound

    Oh-for-four is bad in baseball and recessionary terms. Each of the four monthly indicators used to determine whether the U.S. economy is entering a recession — inflation-adjusted retail sales, job growth, income growth and industrial output — have softened of late. Some economists believe it’s the strongest signal yet that the economy could be sliding into a recession. In terms of retail sales...
    • 8 Jan 2008

    Escalating rates might motivate more rail shippers to switch modes

    Bank of America Securities’ fourth-quarter survey of 1,400 rail shippers revealed a growing trend that should concern railroads. More shippers are considering diversions to other modes. Conducted in November, the survey showed 67 percent of the respondents were “actively” seeking to divert traffic compared with 44 percent in the second-quarter survey. A majority of the polltakers said railroads’...
    • 6 Dec 2007

    Short-line tax credits. One, two or three more years? How about forever

    Dec. 31 is fast approaching and short liners have more at stake that day than their New Year’s Eve plans. The federal tax credit law expires when the clock strikes midnight. Since the law was enacted in 2005, short lines have used tax credits to help offset the cost of infrastructure improvements. And from what I’ve heard over the years, they’re putting them to good use. The short-line industry...
    • 16 Nov 2007

    At massive Bailey Yard, every minute counts for coal trains. And UP is saving hundreds of hours with in-train wheel replacements

    From 12 days to 12 minutes? I have to admit I was skeptical when three Union Pacific Railroad senior executives said Bailey Yard cut the time to change wheelsets on empty coal cars that much by performing the work in the field instead of in a shop. The execs mentioned the in-train wheel replacements while I was at UP’s Omaha, Neb., headquarters Nov. 6 and asked them for an example of how the railroad’s...
    • 22 Oct 2007

    A routine crossing check that was anything but routine for BNSF's Rodriguez — and the man he saved

    Salvador Rodriguez paid attention to the details — moreso than most of us would have in today's mind-your-own-business society — and saved a man's life as a result. After a recent routine grade crossing equipment check in Hinsdale, Ill., the BNSF Railway Co. signal maintainer drove past a man standing on tracks and facing a Metra train that was boarding about 2,000 feet away. "I didn't...
    • 15 Oct 2007

    'Highway in the sky' monorail not necessarily a big reach

    Planes, trains and automobiles. The three transportation modes are somewhat interconnected, as the title of Steve Martin's 1987 movie suggests. But what if you converted planes to trains as part of a monorail system aimed at reducing the number of automobiles on the nation's highways? That's the idea behind Mass Tram America Inc.'s "Highway in the Sky." Headed by former Boeing engineer Ben...
    • 8 Oct 2007

    Signs of an ethanol bust? More like a slightly quieter boom

    You can never get enough of a good thing. And for railroads and tank-car builders, ethanol has been a very good thing. During the past few years, many railroads have posted double-digit increases in ethanol-related traffic and the handful of builders that manufacture tank cars have logged a growing number of orders, helping keep their business afloat while demand dropped for other car types. U.S. ethanol production...
    • 19 Sep 2007

    Short lines prove they’re long on industrial development

    When Southeast Aggregates searched high and low for a distribution facility site in Georgia earlier this year, a city offering long-term business growth potential was priority No. 1. A close second? Rail access. The company, which operates an aggregate distribution facility in Metter, Ga., found both in Statesboro. The city is a hotbed of aggregates demand and the site is adjacent to Georgia Midland Railroad’s...