2,400 of 5,000 furloughed BNSF employees are back to work

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Farm Forum

Many of the BNSF Railway workers once furloughed are back to work to help handle high grain traffic.

As many as 5,000 BNSF Railway workers were furloughed after 2015 ended with a low number of average weekly carloads in the U.S., according to data compiled by the Association of American Railroads.

“Customers’ freight transportation needs drive our workforce needs. As those needs fluctuate, some furloughed employees have been recalled to work,” said Amy McBeth, BNSF public affairs director for South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Manitoba, in an email to the American News.

“In particular, we have seen an uptick in grain traffic this quarter compared to last. At this point, across our network, we are pleased to be able to have approximately 2,400 employees of the 5,000 who were furloughed currently back to work. As has been the case, our workforce moving forward will continue to be determined by customers’ demands for freight transportation.”

Association of American Railroads data shows a high volume of grain carloads moving in the U.S. in recent weeks — the highest numbers in since 2013.

There were 24,900 carloads of grain during the week that ended July 30, according to the data.

During the same week in 2015, there were approximately 21,500 carloads. In 2014, there were approximately 21,000 carloads. The year before, there were approximately 16,900 carloads.

Dustin Buntrock, rail manager for Wheat Growers, said grain car loadings are up 15 percent compared to a year ago.

“We’ve also seen a fair amount of grain shuttles running in the BNSF system compared to last year. We’re probably a good 20 percent higher in the amount of grain shuttles in their system. So demand in grain has been one of the better commodities groups for BNSF,” he said.

Aggregated items, petroleum and coal carloads are down from last year, according to Buntrock.

A few years ago, local farmers were discouraged when BNSF struggled to provide enough trains to ship out commodities in a timely fashion. That was during the height of the North Dakota oil boom when supply from the Bakken Formation demanded many rail cars.

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