CLASS 1 freight operator BNSF has reported record net earnings of $US 5.99bn in 2021, up 16.1% from 2020.

BNSF’s operating income for 2021 was $US 8.8bn, up 14% ($US 1.1bn) compared with 2020. Total revenue was $US 23.282bn, a 12% growth on the previous year.

In 2021, full-year volumes were 1% lower than pre-pandemic volumes of 2019. BNSF said that the volume increase in 2021 compared with 2020 is primarily due to continued improvements from the 2020 effects of the pandemic, partially offset by the ongoing disruptions in the global supply chain.

BNSF highlighted growth in intermodal in both international and domestic shipments that have been driven by increased retail sales, inventory replenishments by retailers and increased e-commerce activity. There was also a higher demand for coal primarily due to an increased electricity generation, higher natural gas prices and improved export demand.

Operating expenses increased 10% from 2020, which BNSF says reflected higher volumes and higher average fuel prices offset by productivity improvements.

Fuel expenses rose 55% for the year, which BNSF says reflected higher average fuel prices. The cost of locomotive fuel per gallon increased by 86% for the fourth quarter of 2021 to $US 2.52, and 50% for the full year to $US 2.16.

BNSF’s capital expenses for 2021 were $US 2.97bn. In 2022 they are expected to reach $US 3.55bn. Maintenance and component replacement is expected to cost $US 2.71bn, covering nearly 22,530km of track work, replacing 613.1km of rail and approximately 2.7 million sleepers. Approximately $US 580m of the 2022 capital plan will be for expansion and efficiency projects that will support the growth of BNSF’s consumer, agricultural and industrial products customer businesses. About $US 259m of the 2022 capital plan is for the purchase of freight wagons and other equipment.

On the Southern Transcon route between Southern California and the Midwest, the Class 1 will continue a multi-year effort to conduct track doubling in eastern Kansas and add a third track on sections in California to support traffic growth.

BNSF will also continue a multi-year bridge project near Sandpoint, Idaho, to increase capacity in the Pacific Northwest. Finally, BNSF will continue, or begin, multi-year intermodal facility expansion projects in north Texas and Chicago.

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