Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Surface Transportation Board’

STB Seeks Comment on ‘First Mile, Last Mile’

September 23, 2021

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board is seeking comment on how well railroads perform first mile and last mile service to shippers.

STB defines this as “the movement of railcars between a local railroad serving yard and a shipper or receiver facility.”

In its call for comments, regulators said they want to hear about what concerns shippers, carriers and public have about first mile, last mile service.

In announcing the call for comments, the STB said comment is also being solicited about whether further Board review of first mile, last mile service is warranted and what actions might need to be taken.

The STB said it was particularly interested in knowing whether metrics to measure first mile, last mile service that are not now being reported to the Board might have utility for the supply chain, and the potential burdens associated with any such reporting.

The STB noted that it has received comments from various shipper groups within the past year expressing concern about first mile, last mile service and requesting “greater transparency of FMLM data.”

Shippers have said that railroad crew shortages and other issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide supply chain complications have heightened the importance of the Board exploring first mile, last mile service.

Comments are being accepted between Oct. 18 and Nov. 16. Replies to those comments will be accepted from Dec. 17, 2021, to Feb. 17, 2022.

CP-KCS Outline Merger Timeline, New Name

September 17, 2021

Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern said on Thursday that shareholders of their respective companies will vote on their proposed merger in December.

The two railroads expect regulatory authorities in Mexico to review the merger over the next two to four months.

A merger application will be filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in October and railroad officials are hoping to gain approval by October or November 2022.

The merged company is expected to be named Canadian Pacific Kansas City. It will have U.S. headquarters in Kansas City, but its primary headquarters will be in Calgary.

KCS is expected to be placed into a voting trust in the first quarter of 2022 with former KCS CEO David Starling serving as trustee.

The shareholders of KCS will receive $300 per share in a combination of cash and CP stock, which represents a 34 percent premium to the value of KCS stock price before the CP-KCS merger initially was announced last March. KCS shareholders will own 28 percent of CPKC.

CPKC will be the smallest North American Class 1 system by revenue.

Rail officials envision CPKC having $820 million in annual revenue growth from new traffic opportunities and $180 million in cost and efficiency savings.

KCS CEO Patrick Ottensmeyer said his CP counterpart Keith Creel suggested putting Kansas City into the new railroad’s name and making Kansas City the system’s U.S. headquarters.

Creel will serve as CEO of CPKC and continue to be based in Calgary.

He expects some shippers and Class I railroads will ask the STB for concessions as part of the merger review process but doesn’t expect there to be as many as have been granted in previous Class I mergers because the CP-KCS combination does not involve significant route overlap or a reduction in railroad options for some shippers.

Creel also said CPKC will keep all existing gateways and interchanges open as it seeks traffic growth, but added, “I’m not here to go to war with UP (Union Pacific) or BNSF or CN (Canadian National) or CSX or NS (Norfolk Southern).”

STB Finds 5 Class 1s were Revenue Adequate in 2020

September 10, 2021

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has determined that five Class 1 railroads had adequate revenue during 2020.

The carriers were BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Soo Line (Canadian Pacific) and Union Pacific.

A railroad is considered to be revenue adequate if it achieves a rate of return on net investment equal to at least the current cost of capital for the railroad industry.

During 2020 the STB determined that to be 7.89 percent.

The five carriers cited by regulators achieved a rate of return on net investment equal to or greater than the agency’s calculation of the cost of capital for the railroad industry.

Indiana Short Line Loses Lease on Track

September 7, 2021

An Indiana short line railroad will cease operations on Sept. 20 after losing its lease of track owned by Norfolk Southern.

The Connersville & New Castle, a Class III carrier, has leased track between New Castle and Beesons, on a former Nickel Plate Road branch.

NS canceled the lease and said it planned to assumed common carrier service obligations on Sept. 20.

However, NS also indicated in a recent filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board that it planned to contract with another short line, the New Castle Southern, to operate the line.

The C&NC began operating the 21-mile route between Connersville and New Castle in 1997, taking it over from Indiana Hi Rail.

At its peak, Indiana Hi Rail operated 461 miles of track in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. It filed for bankruptcy protection 1994 and it assets were sold piecemeal.

Officially, the Connersville & New Castle is known as the C&NC and uses the reporting marks CNUR.

KCS to Talk Merger with CP (Again)

September 5, 2021

Kansas City Southern said on Saturday it will discuss a merger with Canadian Pacific but added there is no guarantee that the two carriers will reach an agreement.

If the two do reach a merger agreement it would be the second time this year that has happened.

In March KCS agreed to be acquired by CP. Two months later, Canadian National made what the KSS board of directors described as a superior offer to buy KCS and the CP-KCS deal fell through.

But the CN-KCS offer was cast into doubt last week when the U.S. Surface Transportation Board voted unanimously to reject CN’s proposal to place KCS into a voting trust while the merger was reviewed by federal regulators.

Many industry observers interpreted that action as a signal by regulators that they disapproved of the CN-KCS combination.

The STB earlier this year had approved a CP proposal to place KCS into a voting trust while the CP-KCS combination was reviewed.

CP initially offered to buy KCS for $29 billion. CN countered that with an offer of $35 billion.

In August CP sweetened its offer by proposing to pay $300 per share of KCS stock, which would still be below the $325 per share CN offer.

However, CP has been arguing that a CP-KCS merger stood a better chance of being approved by the STB than a CN-KCS combination.

The STB also has agreed to review a CP-KCS merger under the less stringent merger rules that existed before 2001.

In a statement, CN said it continues to “make carefully considered decisions in the interest of our shareholders and stakeholders and in line with our strategic priorities.”

KCS Shareholders to Meet on Sept. 24

September 4, 2021

Shareholders of Kansas City Southern will reconvene on Sept. 24 to chart the Class 1 railroad’s future course.

A vote on accepting a merger proposal from Canadian National had been scheduled last month but was delayed until the U.S. Surface Transportation Board ruled on a proposal by CN to place KCS stock in a voting trust while regulators reviewed the merger.

After the STB rejected the voting trust proposal earlier this week, the future of KCS turned murky.

A meeting on Friday of KCS shareholders was adjourned without any action taken on merging with CN or considering a merger proposal from Canadian Pacific.

The KCS board of directors said in a statement that it will review the company’s options and continue to make decisions based on the best interests of the company and its stockholders.

STB To Take Comments on Establishing Local Service Performance Metrics

September 3, 2021

Federal regulators are seeking comments on whether railroads should be required to report performance metrics that measure their local service.

In making the announcement, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board noted that Class I railroads report weekly performance data that includes average train speed and average terminal dwell times but they are not required to report how they perform in first- and last-mile service.

That has raised the ire of some shippers who say the STB performance metrics don’t measure the service that railroad customers actually experience.

The STB said it wants to hear from shippers and railroads regarding local service and will use those comments to decide if further examination of first- and last-mile service is necessary.

Regulators will also determine if collecting this data would place an undue burden on railroads. Comments are due by Oct. 18.

KCS to Consider Merger Options

September 2, 2021

Although Kansas City Southern still plans to hold a meeting of shareholders on Friday, it will adjourn the meeting to buy time to reconsider its options in the wake of a decision by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board of Canadian National’s bid to place KCS into a voting trust while a merger of the two Class 1 railroads is reviewed by regulators.

In a statement, KCS expressed disappointment over the STB decision while also acknowledging that Canadian Pacific has made a second offer to acquire KCS. The statement said KCS will consider CP’s latest acquisition offer in due course.

CP issued its own statement saying its Aug. 10 offer to buy KCS for $31 billion remains on the table.

In a conference call Wednesday morning with investors, CP CEO Keith Creel said CP has a regulatory path to approval of a merger with KCS that CN lacks.

Creel pointed to language in the STB decision contending CN overlaps KCS whereas a CP-KCS combination would be an end-to-end merger.

He also noted that the STB has already approved CP’s proposal to put KCS in a voting trust while a CP-KCS merger is reviewed under pre-2001 rules that are less stringent than those that would be applied to the review of a CN-KCS combination.

However, Creel said KCS only has until Sept. 12 to accept CP’s offer.

“Our appetite and willingness to keep that offer on the table forever does not exist,” Creel said.

If KCS accepts CP’s latest offer, then CP said it will file a merger application with the STB by late September.

A day after the STB ruled against CN’s proposal to place KCS in a voting trust, industry analysts continued to maintain that the ruling forecloses approval of a CN-KCS combination.

They pointed to a passage deep in the STB decision that suggested the agency doesn’t expect to see a transcontinental merger under its current merger review rules.

“Neither Applicants nor the Board can perfectly predict future strategic responses to a CN-KCS transaction. However, a simple geographic analysis of the rail network would suggest that a carrier in CP’s position, i.e., one that would be the smallest carrier by far after a CN-KCS combination, might need to look for potential strategic alliances, which might in turn trigger yet more strategic responses by other rail carriers,” the board wrote.

“Approval of a CN-KCS voting trust could speed up downstream consolidation movements prior to the Board even having had an opportunity to assess them based on the record yet to be developed in this proceeding.”

An analysis on the website of Trains magazine concluded that the STB fears that those “downstream consolidations” could lead to two railroad systems covering the United States and Canada.

If CP and KCS eventually merge, the analysis continued, that would result in a near perfect balance of two railroads in the East (CSX and Norfolk Southern), two in the West (Union Pacific and BNSF) and two Canadian systems that reach the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet the Trains analysis raised the prospect that such a state of affairs would also fix the advantage that truckers have in being able to move freight anywhere in North America whereas railroads can only move it to the ends of their systems before handing it off to another railroad.

“If the STB wanted to create a level playing field between trucks and trains, it would figure out a way to preserve rail-to-rail competition while allowing Class I mergers,” wrote Trains writer Bill Stephens.

He noted that Canada has had two transcontinental systems for a century and that could work in the United States if regulators would allow it.

Although railroads handle 40 percent of ton miles they earn less than $100 billion of the revenue of the $1.4 trillion U.S. surface transportation and logistics market.

If trucking companies continue to divert freight from rails to highways they might become a threat to the financial well being of the railroad industry.

STB Rejects CN-KCS Voting Trust

September 1, 2021

The future of Canadian National’s bid to buy Kansas City Southern was cast into doubt Tuesday after the U.S. Surface Transportation Board unanimously rejected a CN plan to place KCS into a voting trust while regulators reviewed the merger.

In the wake of that development, an activist hedge fund that on Monday increased its share of CN stock to 5.2 percent, called for the resignations of CN CEO J.J. Ruest and Chairman Robert Pace.

Some industry analysts said the STB decision signals that it doesn’t favor the CN-KCS combination.

The developments also prompted Canadian Pacific, which earlier failed in its own bid to buy KCS, to renew its efforts to merge with KCS.

The CN-KCS merger would have been the first combination of Class 1 railroads in two decades.

STB members decided that CN’s plan to place KCS into a voting trust was not in the public interest.

CN had proposed buying KCS in May in a $33.6 billion deal that it said would create the first railroad linking Canada, the United States and Mexico.

One sticking point for the STB about the voting trust was whether it would insulate KCS from unlawful control by CN during the merger review process.

The 33-page decision said the voting trust could hinder competition between CN and KCS while the merger is under review. Further harm could occur if CN is forced to sell KCS if federal regulators rejected the merger.

The STB decision also said the establishment of a voting trust is not essential as part of a merger proceeding and that CN and KCS could still seek to merge under different terms.

Earlier this year when CP and KCS were courting each other for a merger, the STB had approved the terms of a voting trust that CP had proposed as part of the merger.

The KCS board of directors had approved CP’s $29 billion offer in March, but two months later did an about face after CN submitted what the KCS board termed a “superior offer.”

CP has since offered to increase what it will pay for KCS, but that bid is still less than what CN is offering.

The STB decision this week in effect rejected a CN argument that it’s proposed KCS voting trust was the same as what CP proposed and the STB approved.

In its decision, the STB said the CN-KCS merger would be judged under tougher new merger rules, while CP-KCS would have been reviewed under rules that existed before being changed in 2001.

The STB also said approval of a CN-KCS voting trust arrangement could lead to further consolidation among Class I railroads.

“A simple geographic analysis of the rail network would suggest that a carrier in CP’s position, i.e., one that would be the smallest carrier by far after a CN-KCS combination, might need to look for potential strategic alliances, which might in turn trigger yet more strategic responses by other rail carriers,” the STB said. “Approval of a CN-KCS voting trust could speed up downstream consolidation movements prior to the Board even having had an opportunity to assess them based on the record yet to be developed in this proceeding.”

It remains unclear if KCS will proceed with a meeting of its shareholders on Friday to vote on the CN merger proposal.

The CN-KCS merger agreement remains in force until February 2022.

Industry analyst Anthony Hatch told Trains magazine the STB decision this week sends a “clear signal about potential downstream impacts of a merger involving two Class I systems.”

Analysts at Wolfe Research said in a note to investors said CN could increase its offer to KCS as a way of enticing it to ride out the process.

However, it said that if the STB rejected the voting trust proposal it was likely that KCS shareholders would vote against the CN bid, which would mean KCS would owe CN a $700 million breakup fee.

The day before the STB decision came down TCI Fund Management increased its ownership of CN stock to 5.2 percent.

Shortly after federal regulators spurned the CN voting trust proposal, TCI issued a statement calling on CN to end its bid for KCS.

TCI also called for Jim Vena – a former CN chief operating officer who most recently worked in operations at Union Pacific – to be named CN’s chief executive.

The activist hedge fund also wants Gil Lamphere, a former CN board member and an early supporter of E. Hunter Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading operating model, to be named to the CN board of directors.

In seeking the resignation of CN CEO Ruest and board chairman Pace, TCI said the CN-KCS merger faced regulatory risk.

It acknowledged that if CN backs away from the merger that it would be liable for paying a

$1 billion breakup fee to KCS.

CN previously paid KCS $700 million to cover a breakup fee it owed CP when it broke its merger plans with that company.

 “The opinion of the STB is clear: it does not want Canadian National to buy KCS, so persisting in the face of explicit opposition from the STB would be hugely damaging to the reputation of CN and potentially financially disastrous because it would expose the company to the risk of forced divestment and damaging remedies,” TCI’s Chris Hohn and Ben Walker wrote in a letter to CN.

They said any attempt to salvage the KCS merger would be futile.

“From the start, it has been clear and obvious the bid would fail. That the Board sanctioned the bid, together with potential fees of C$2 billion, is an egregious failure of oversight and there must be accountability. CN needs a change of senior management,” TCI said.

Late Tuesday night CN issued a statement expressing disappointment in the STB decision.

“We are evaluating the options available to us in light of the STB’s decision,” CN said.

“We remain confident that our pro-competitive, end-to-end combination is in the public interest and that it would offer unparalleled opportunities and benefits for customers, employees, the environment and the North American economy.”

CP also issued a statement calling on KCS to merge with it.

Class I Employment Fell in July

August 31, 2021

U.S. Class I Railroads employed 115,670 people in July, a decline of 0.23 percent from mid-June and down 1.33 percent from employment levels in mid-July 2020.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board said five of six employment categories experienced decreases: maintenance of equipment and stores, down 0.79 percent to 17,519 workers; maintenance of way and structures, down 0.46 percent to 28,514; transportation (other than train and engine), down 0.42 percent to 4,731;  executives, officials and staff assistants, down 0.29 percent to 7,321; and professional and administrative, down 0.03 percent to 10,087.

Only the transportation (train and engine) category posted an increase in July over June. It was 0.11 percent to 47,498 workers.

Transportation (train and engine) was also the only category to log a year-over-year increase; the category’s employment level rose 6.09 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, these five categories saw decreases in employment levels: Maintenance of equipment and stores, down 10.39 percent; transportation (other than train and engine), down 6.78 percent; maintenance of way and structures, down 4.73 percent; professional and administrative, down 2.83 percent; and executives, officials and staff assistants, down 2.66 percent.