BNSF earnings climb despite traffic declines, weather woes

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FORT WORTH, Texas – BNSF Railway’s pre-tax earnings climbed 10% in the first quarter as higher revenue per carload and intermodal unit more than offset a 5% decline in traffic volume, the railroad reported on Saturday.

BNSF, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway, said that operating income was up 2%, to $1.7 billion, as revenue increased 2%, to $5.7 billion. The railroad’s operating ratio improved 2 points, to 66.5%.

Volume was down due to the impact of harsh winter weather and record flooding in the Midwest.

Revenue in BNSF’s Consumer Products segment, which includes intermodal and automotive traffic, grew 7.6% despite a 5.6% volume decline. “The volume decrease was attributable to lower international intermodal market share, increased truck competition, and the adverse weather conditions,” Berkshire Hathaway said in its regulatory filing.

Revenue in the railroad’s Industrial Products segment was up 8.4% as volume grew 1.3% due to strength in petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas, and aggregates.

Agricultural Products revenue dropped 3.4% as volume sank 7% due primarily to weather conditions, BNSF said.

Coal revenue and volume also declined. Revenue slumped 8.3% on a 10.3% decline in volume that BNSF attributed to weather conditions.

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