BNSF Furloughs Reach 4,600 Workers as U.S. Rail Cargo Declines

BNSF Railway Co., the carrier owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has 4,600 workers on furlough in response to declining cargo traffic.

The railroad began accelerating a reduction in its workforce toward the end of last year, said Mike Trevino, a BNSF spokesman. It was the first time this year that the company said how many employees were on furlough. Trevino couldn’t provide precise timing on when the pace of furloughs picked up. BNSF had 44,000 workers at the end of 2015.

“We will continue to adjust the workforce based on customer demand,” Trevino said. “So it will fluctuate up and down based on demand.”

Traffic for large U.S. railroads dropped 6.2 percent in the first 12 weeks of this year, dragged down by lower coal and oil shipments. Rail cargo fell 2.5 percent last year. Most railroads, including Union Pacific Corp., have responded by reducing their workforces.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Class B shares fell less than 1 percent to $141.38 at 9:56 a.m. in New York.

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