Rail Roundup: TRAC Intermodal, Wabtec, EPA and UP

Investments, technology purchases and cleanup fees

Investments spanning decade total more than $1 billion: TRAC Intermodal 

Princeton, New Jersey-headquartered TRAC Intermodal has invested more than $1 billion since 2011 to expand and modernize its marine chassis fleet, the company said Tuesday.

The investments include not only new chassis but also those refurbished as part of TRAC’s BlueEdge Chassis Refurbishing program. In that program, chassis get outfitted with features such as LED lights, radial tires, wiring harnesses and brake systems, TRAC said. 

The company estimates that it has updated or added 40,000 new chassis to its U.S. fleet.

Investments since 2015  include new or upgraded chassis to 65% of TRAC’s Metro Pool fleet, 60% of TRAC’s Gulf Regional Pool fleet, 45% of its Pacific Southwest Pool fleet and 30% of its Marine Eastern Pool fleet. 

Meanwhile, equipment investments include those to TRAC’s Tire Services division for tire retreading. 

“We are fully committed to providing motor carriers, BCOs, ocean carriers and other customers with the most advanced and reliable equipment to ensure a safe and efficient flow of goods. Our significant investment over the last decade ensures that we are well positioned to meet even the most pressing chassis demand periods,” TRAC Intermodal CEO Daniel Walsh said. “More critically, we aim to continue to invest in the expansion and modernization of TRAC’s fleet to support the growth of our customers and ensure they continue to have access to the highest quality and most reliable chassis in the industry.”

Australian mining company buys Wabtec battery-electric locomotive

Australian iron ore mining company Roy Hill has purchased Wabtec’s FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive for use in mining operations. 

The Wabtec (NYSE: WAB) locomotive Roy Hill will receive in 2023 will have an energy capacity of 7 megawatt hours (MWh), which is higher than the 2.4-MWh prototype that was recently part of a testing project involving BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B). 

“We are committed to transforming the next generation of transportation by adopting advanced technologies that improve energy efficiency, lower operating costs and improve our rail and mining network,” said Roy Hill CEO Gerhard Veldsman. “The FLXdrive locomotive will be the first for the region and the first for the mining industry and will improve our rail operations from the mine to Port Hedland.”

Roy Hill will use the Wabtec locomotive on a train alongside three Wabtec ES44ACi Evolution Series diesel-electric locomotives. The FLXdrive locomotive plus the diesel locomotives will form a hybrid consist, or group of locomotives, and the FLXdrive locomotive will recharge via regenerative braking. The FLXdrive locomotive also manages train energy flow and distribution through an intelligent cruise control system known as the Trip Optimizer.

“Our analysis with Wabtec confirms the FLXdrive locomotive is ideally suited for our rail network,” said Simon Pascoe, Roy Hill general manager of engineering. “It has the horsepower to operate in a heavy haul train consist pulling loaded wagons with 35,000 tonnes of iron ore, while at the same time reducing the entire train’s fuel consumption. The FLXdrive also is designed to function in the extreme heat of the Pilbara region.”

EPA, Union Pacific settle over alleged violations involving June 2016 derailed crude train

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has settled with Union Pacific over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act when a crude oil train derailed near the Columbia River in Oregon in June 2016.

According to EPA, a UP (NYSE: UNP) train derailed in Mosier, Oregon, resulting in the release of 47,000 gallons of Bakken crude. Much of the release was discharged to the Mosier wastewater treatment plant, resulting in that plant’s shutdown for about two weeks. Sixteen of the 96 cars making up the train derailed, with four cars breached and releasing Bakken crude, while others caught fire, EPA said. 

As part of the settlement, UP will pay a civil penalty of $52,500 to the U.S. Treasury. UP is also paying a $30,000 civil penalty to the state of Oregon as a result of a settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and it has reimbursed cleanup costs to state and local agencies and completed major repairs and upgrades to the city of Mosier’s wastewater treatment plant. UP is also conducting short-term and longer-term air and groundwater monitoring, and it is reclaiming, regrading and replanting the spill site, EPA said. 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.