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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

BNSF's bullish on perishables traffic despite cow, poultry disease outbreaks

Last year's Mad Cow Disease outbreak and February's poultry virus cases in Delaware and Texas have affected Burlington Northern Santa Fe's perishables traffic this year. The railroad's beef and pork shipments dropped 75 percent in January, and poultry moves decreased 43 percent through 2004's first two months compared with similar 2003 periods.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently introduced new testing procedures that can be completed at a site in hours instead of weeks and analyze 200,000 cattle instead of 20,000 annually. And BNSF has bolstered its refrigerated-car fleet, leading railroad officials to believe the Class I can build perishables business in 2004.

"Last year, we were very selective with business in refrigerated box cars because our fleet didn't match demand, said Bryan Mathiesen, BNSF market manager, perishables, in a prepared statement. "But with the 700 recently acquired 72-foot, satellite-monitored refrigerated cars, we have an opportunity to explore new markets as we work our way through the beef and poultry crisis."

The railroad's intermodal perishables business — comprising about half of BNSF's perishables revenues — already is making strides, rising 25 percent through February compared with 2003's first two months.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/22/2004