We are living in a very serious and somber time in our history as a nation and across the globe. As the COVID-19 pandemic has instantly changed daily life for all Americans, I am incredibly proud of the way in which our employees have responded. Every day without fail we have thousands of men and women answering the call to safely keep essential goods moving in spite of this unprecedented public health crisis.
As railroaders, we understand our country needs our services now more than ever. So many of the things that are needed most during this crisis move on our railroad. Whether it’s the chlorine to keep water supplies safe, food, essential consumer products or energy sources needed to provide electricity, we deliver on our promise each and every day.
To look back and reflect on where we were last year may seem trivial in light of our current situation. Yet it is important to think about the challenges as well as the tremendous progress we made in 2019.
As I have said many times, nothing is more important than safety at BNSF. Last year, for the very first time in our long history, we finished the calendar year without an employee fatality. This is a significant event that we should all celebrate—and it’s certainly an indication of continuous improvement. We know that every injury is preventable and that eliminating workplace accidents and injuries is in our hands. We do this by building trusting relationships and looking out for each other. I’m confident that by working together we can achieve our vision of zero accidents and injuries.
After responding to the major flood-related outages during the first half of 2019, we finished the year with strong gains in our service performance. This momentum was no accident. It’s a credit to the teams who minimized the impact of service interruptions while completing our capital projects, improving asset utilization and delivering for our customers.
As we entered last year, we expected to see modest growth; unfortunately, the freight environment was much softer than anticipated and volume was down 4.5 percent from the previous year. A slower economy, trade uncertainty, excess truck capacity and the negative impacts of unprecedented weather conditions played a role in our volume decline. Although we saw weaker demand for rail freight service in 2019, we can be proud of our efforts to capture available business in the marketplace.
So far 2020 is shaping up to be a year like no other for our railroad and our nation. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a softening freight environment and less volume overall moving across the country. In spite of the challenges we face this year, we will continue to capture every opportunity to improve efficiency and productivity across our organization.
We have the talented and dedicated people needed to get us through this very difficult time. We have a remarkable and irreplaceable rail network that’s in the best shape it’s ever been. We will continue in 2020 to put everything we have into making us safer, improving service and being more efficient. In doing so, we can realize our tremendous potential. This is BNSF, and together we are stronger.
President and Chief Executive Officer
*BNSF Railway employees as of December 31, 2019
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