Berkshire Hathaway is investing $5.5 billion on improvements to its 32,500-mile BNSF Railways network. But while the railway is hiring more than 7,000 new workers, it also is pulling thousands of rail cars off its lines.
According to an analysis, the strategy has paid off this winter. Last winter, BNSF rail cars, including those hauling grain across the United States, were stuck at terminals for an average of 35 hours. This year, they are back on the tracks in less than a day and moving 15 percent faster than they did last year.
Grain companies said they saw improvements this year, compared with last year.
“Rail was a lot better this year. We didn’t see the delays," said Mark Formo, president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association. "In fact, we saw cars showing up for deliveries a day early.”
All respondents in a February survey by the Soy Transportation Coalition said cycle times – how long it takes a train to pick up a shipment, deliver it and return – have improved from last year.
Some customers credit fewer weather-related disruptions and less demand for oil-by-rail and grain shipments for better service.
"To me it’s market driven," said Brian Hammerbeck, president of Dakota Mill & Grain. "Prices are down, and you have farmers keeping more of it, so it’s a much different environment.
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