Genesee and Wyoming (G&W) railroad, the parent of the Heart of Georgia Railroad and Georgia Central Railway, and their partner, Parallel Systems Inc., are attempting to begin testing fully autonomous train cars. Their experimental, self-propelled container cars pose many problems and, if successful, will threaten many union-protected jobs.

SMART-TD shared our concerns at their first hearing and will explain our position to the FRA by filing a public comment. We encourage you to follow this link and submit a comment of your own about the attempt to run fully automated containers.

The comments are due April 1 and are open to the public.


Parallel Systems, founded by former SpaceX personnel, has a prototype of a self-driving container car, which SMART-TD and our partners have seen in action. The cars don’t have couplers. Instead, each has a battery, motors and radio-connected computer that allows individual freight cars to move wherever they need to go. Their goal is to eventually eliminate engines, yards and conductors entirely.

See Parallel Systems’ vision

Strong resistance at the first hearing

Our union’s testimony left little doubt that this concept is nowhere near ready for a real-world setting. SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity’s testimony opened many eyes and landed with the members of the FRA technical committee. Even representatives of G&W and Parallel Systems began to see the error of their ways.

ANLD Cassity pointed out multiple examples where these crewless vehicles fail to meet federal regulations, which enforce well-established safety and industry standards. If Parallel expected a warm reception for their new shiny thing, they were sadly mistaken.

Cassity made it very clear that this project and testing it on live tracks was detrimental to the safety of every rail professional in the area and drastically compounds risk to the community.

G&W, FRA play a waiting game at hearing

This hearing, held in a community center in the Atlanta area, was attended by SMART-TD, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD), and other rail unions. While scheduled to run until 5 p.m., both G&W and FRA representatives thanked everyone and told labor we got an early quit. As long as the meeting was technically open, and the Zoom “recording” button was still flashing, we weren’t going anywhere. The room emptied over several minutes. SMART-TD, the TTD and other labor groups remained. After many silent minutes, the CEO of G&W began reading a rebuttal to Cassity and the other unions’ objections.

Clearly wounded, G&W went on record claiming that the new technology wasn’t as bad as our facts made it out to be.

It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Get ready for a fight

We also learned that the FRA has already scheduled a meeting to announce its decision on April 18th. SMART-TD has a couple of problems with this announcement. Written public comments are not due until the close of business April 1, this seems like a lightning quick turnaround to announce a decision.

The public comment period for 2PC regulations ended in December 2022, and we have not been given a final decision on that matter in March 2024!  Important issues should take time to decide.

Animated graphic by the SMART Transportation Division

Autonomous freight cars would upend everything we know about the railroad industry, but the FRA is going to make a decision a little more than two weeks after the deadline for public comment. Has the outcome of this hearing and public-comment period already been determined through a backroom deal? Not on our watch.

The FRA has worked closely with our union on almost every topic involving rail since 2021. Why did we find out about this highly important meeting, announcing a potentially monumental shift in our industry, only by lurking in a public meeting after they told us it was time to leave?  That is not how the agency has operated since President Biden appointed Administrator Amit Bose.

SMART-TD is on alert to this new threat — follow this link and tell the FRA your opinion of G&W’s intention to run fully automated container cars on our rails.

Just before the start of the new year, deals that resulted in the Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) and the Central Maine & Quebec (CM&Q) changing hands were finalized.
The Surface Transportation Board in November cleared the way for Brookfield Asset Management and GIC, a Singapore wealth fund, to acquire Genesee & Wyoming, which controls Class II and III railroads in 41 states and, if considered collectively, has holdings that qualify it as a Class I carrier with more than 13,000 track miles.
A review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) permitted the acquisition to be finalized, and completion of the deal was announced Dec. 31. G&W is now a private entity and its stock is no longer traded publicly.
In the case of Canadian Pacific’s acquisition of CM&Q, the federal Surface Transportation Board still must sign off on the deal, which was announced Nov. 20, to make it official. Financial terms were finalized on Dec. 30, CP announced.
Once approved by the STB, CP’s purchase from Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors LLC would give the Class I carrier trackage and facilities from St. Jean, Quebec, Canada, to Searsport, Maine.
SMART Transportation Division represents 52 members on the CM&Q in the Transportation, Mechanical and Engineering Departments who belong to GO-049, which is represented by General Chairman Rick Lee. CM&Q owns 481 miles of rail lines primarily in Quebec and Maine.

Disregarding comments by the SMART TD New York Legislative Board to the contrary, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has granted an exemption to Brookfield Asset Management and DJP XX LLC that clears the way for their acquisition of short-line/regional railroad operator Genesee & Wyoming.
Genesee & Wyoming controls Class II and III railroads in 41 states and, if considered collectively, its holdings qualify it as a Class I carrier with more than 13,000 track miles.
The notice, published in the Federal Register Nov. 1 after a 3-0 vote by the board, concludes a postponement of the $8.4 billion acquisition put forth by the STB in late July. The acquisition, when completed, will make G&W a privately held company.
Brookfield Asset Management owns and operates assets in the utilities, transport, energy and data infrastructure across North and South America, Asia Pacific and Europe while DJP XX LLC is a subsidiary of GIC, a global investment firm that manages Singapore’s foreign reserves.
In early September, an attorney representing New York State Legislative Director Samuel J. Nasca filed reply comments asserting that the notice of exemption should be rejected or revoked because of the magnitude and nature of the transportation involved.
Nasca’s filing expressed concern regarding the role of foreign interests, including GIC, which would own 27% of equity in DJP XX and has links to the government of Singapore, and was not listed on the exemption application to the STB. He also identified Brookfield as controlling rail investments in Brazil — more than 10,000 km of rail tracks and stated that GWI controls rail carriers that are located in other countries including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom and are not subject to Board jurisdiction.
Moreover, Nasca argued, employees could face negative ramifications if the deal went through.
“A number of the GWI carriers operate in or through New York State, and are represented by SMART/TD in collective (bargaining). Those GWI carriers not so represented by SMART/TD are nevertheless important for SMART/TD employees as such carriers interchange traffic with other GWI-represented carriers, or with other carriers outside the GWI family,” his filing stated. “Accordingly, SMART/TD employees stand to be adversely affected by Brookfield management decisions revising the structure of GWI or taking actions which may divert business to other units of the Brookfield organization.”
The board disregarded the concerns expressed for workers, about foreign interests and about the scale of the acquisition as well.
“SMART/TD-NY’s comments about the magnitude and nature of the transportation at issue do not support rejection of the notice or revocation of the exemption,” the board stated in the Federal Register notice.
STB member Marty Oberman, while voting to approve the exemption, did express some reservation about the magnitude of the exemption, stating in the Federal Register filing:
“This is by far the largest and most geographically diverse collection of railroads impacting the U.S. freight network ever to be processed as a class exemption under the Board’s existing regulations,” Oberman wrote. “In my opinion, this proceeding raises significant questions regarding whether transactions of this magnitude were contemplated when the class exemption regulations were adopted, and therefore raises questions as to whether it is appropriate for such major transactions to be eligible under those regulations in the first place.”
The proposed acquisition of G&W is expected to close by the end of 2019 or early 2020 pending review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Read Sam Nasca’s filing that opposes the exemption.
Read the entire Federal Register notice here.

Four interested bidders have moved ahead to the next round of discussion for a stake in large short-line operator Genesee & Wyoming (G&W), Bloomberg News reports.
Carrier leadership announced earlier this year that the company was up for either an outright acquisition or seeking an investment partner. Bloomberg reports that G&W wants about $110 per share.
In the running are Brookfield Asset Management Inc., Blackstone Group LP, Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and EQT Partners.
G&W owns or leases 120 freight railroads worldwide and has 8,000 employees, according to the carrier’s website.
Read the full story at Bloomberg News.

Net Earnings: Increased 34 percent to $1.4 billion
Revenue: Increased 16 percent to $6.1 billion
Operating Income: Increased 9 percent to $2.1 billion
Operating Expenses: Increased 20 percent to $4.0 billion
Operating Ratio: Increased 2.1 points to 64.5 percent
Click here to read BNSF’s full earnings report.

Net Earnings: Increased 18 percent to C$1,134 million
Earnings Per Share: Diluted earnings per share increased 21 percent to C$1.54
Revenue: Increased 14 percent to a record C$3,688 million
Operating Income: Increased 8 percent to C$1,492 million
Operating Expenses: Increased 19 percent to C$2,196
Operating Ratio: Increased 2.3 points to 59.5 percent
Click here to read CN’s full earnings report.

Net Earnings: Increased 22 percent to C$622 million
Earnings Per Share: Diluted earnings per share increased 24 percent to a record C$4.35
Revenue: Increased 19 percent to a record C$1.9 billion
Operating Income: Increased 27 percent to C$790 million
Operating Expenses: Increased 14 percent to C$1,108 million
Operating Ratio: Decreased 270 points to a record low of 58.3 percent
Click here to read CP’s full earnings report.

Net Earnings: Increased 106 percent to $894 million
Earnings Per Share: Increased to $1.05 per share from $0.51 per share
Revenue: Increased 14 percent to $3.13 billion
Operating Income: Increased 49 percent to $1.29 billion
Operating Expenses: Declined 2 percent to $1,84 billion
Operating Ratio: Improved 970 basis points to a record 58.7 percent
Click here to read CSX’s full earnings report.

Net Earnings: Increased to $174 million from $129 million
Earnings Per Share: Diluted earnings per share increased 38 percent to $1.70
Revenue: Increased 6 percent to a record $699 million
Operating Income: Increased 14 percent to $265 million
Operating Expenses: Increased to $433.6 million from $422.8 million
Operating Ratio: Improved 2.4 basis points to 62 percent
Click here to read KCS’s full earnings report.

Net Earnings: Increased 39 percent to $702 million
Earnings Per Share: Diluted earnings per share increased 44 percent to a third quarter record of $2.52
Revenue: Increased 10 percent to $2.9 billion
Operating Income: Increased 14 percent to a third quarter record of $1.0 billion
Operating Expenses: Increased 9 percent to $1.9 billion
Operating Ratio: Declined 1.1 basis points to a record 65.4 percent
Click here to read NS’s full earnings report.

Net Earnings: Increased from $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion
Earnings Per Share: Increased 43 percent from $1.50 to a record $2.15 per diluted share
Revenue: Increased 10 percent to $5.9 billion
Operating Income: Increased 9 percent to $2.3 billion
Operating Expenses: Increased 10 percent from $3.3 billion to $3.7 billion
Operating Ratio: Stayed flat at 61.7 percent
Click here to read UP’s full earnings report.
Financial results of the largest shortline:

Net Earnings: Increased to $69.6 million from $50.2 million
Earnings Per Share: Increased 45 percent to $1.16
Revenue: Increased 11.5 percent to $355.7 million from $318.9 million
Operating Income: Increased 24.7 percent to $102.5 million, up from $82.2 million
Operating Expenses: Increased to $253,225 from $236,724
Operating Ratio: Improved 3 points to 71.2 percent from 74.2 percent
Click here to read G&W’s full earnings report.


  • Operating ratio is a railroad’s operating expenses expressed as a percentage of operating revenue, and is considered by economists to be the basic measure of carrier profitability. The lower the operating ratio, the more efficient the railroad.
  • All comparisons are made to 2017’s third quarter financial results for each railroad.
  • Figures for G&W are for North American operations only with the exception of Net Earnings & Earnings Per Share, which includes all G&W operations, as solely North American figures were unavailable in these categories.

Train and engine service employees as well as yardmaster employees of Golden Isles Terminal Railroad recently voted yes to SMART TD representation.
On May 12, the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified that SMART TD has been duly designated and authorized to represent train and engine service as well as yardmaster employees of the railroad.
“These employees recognize what the strength and power that being part of the nation’s largest rail labor organization can do for them,” said SMART TD Director of Organizing rich Ross.
“We would like to thank all those involved with the successful campaign on Golden Isles Terminal Railroad, specifically Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, GO 851 General Chairperson Joe Bennett and local officers of Local 1031, Local President James Robertroy, Local Legislative Rep. Isaac Gamble, Local Chairperson Darrin Brown and Local Chairperson Jeremy Sessions,” said Ross and Transportation Organizer Larry Grutzius.
Golden Isles Terminal Railroad operates 33 miles of track in and around the port at Brunswick, Ga. The railroad has interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern. Commodities carried by the short line are automobiles, chemicals, food and feed products, machinery, and pulp and paper. The Golden Isles Terminal Railroad was founded in 1998 by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.

In a landslide vote held Aug. 27, employees of Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad voted for SMART representation. Of the 53 eligible voters and 42 total votes, 37 voted for SMART Transportation Division representation while five voted for no representation.

Phillip Craig, member of the SMART TD Executive Board, had a large part in organizing the property.

“I was the general chairman back when the property was owned by the DM&E. I organized it 25 years ago when it was the DM&E. I went out to the property prior to it being sold and the members all felt good about their SMART TD representation. So I called Washington and I talked with John Risch and then Rich Ross and we went out there.”

“When I organized it the first time, it took three years. This time it took less than 90 days.”

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. acquired the former CP DM&E line and started operations under the new name June 1. The short line runs a total of 670 miles in four states: Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. The railroad transports about 52,000 carloads annually of grain, ethanol, bentonite clay, fertilizer and other products.

“I’d like to thank South Dakota State Legislative Director BJ Shillingstad, Vice Local Chairperson Mike Decker (L-64), Nick Boyer (L-64), Gus Manolis (L-64), Director of Organizing Rich Ross, National Legislative Director James Stem, Alt. National Legislative Director John Risch and President John Previsich. They were all a big help to me.”

In an effort put forth by SMART TD’s Director of Organizing Rich Ross, SMART TD brought three short lines to the fold in an election held March 4, 5 and 6.

The short lines are all owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., and included: Conecuh Valley Railway, LLC, Three Notch Railroad and Wiregrass Central Railway.

“I would like to thank NS/CSX new hire Instructor/Organizer Justin Humphries for his help in this organizing effort,” Ross said.

The Conecuh Valley Railway (COEH) operates over 12 miles of track southwest from Troy, Ala., to Goshen, Ala. The COEH interchanges with CSX at Troy and handles about 3,000 carloads per year. The line transports poultry feed ingredients, plastic, lead, vegetable oil and food products.

The Three Notch Railroad (TNHR) operates over 34 miles of track southeast from Georgiana, Ala., to Andalusia, Ala. TNHR interchanges with CSX at Georgiana and handles approximately 1,050 carloads per year. The line carries chemicals, polypropylene, fertilizer and agricultural products.

The Wiregrass Central Railway (WGCR) operates 20 miles of track in Alabama, west from Waterford to Enterprise. The line intersects with CSX at Waterford and handles around 8,200 carloads per year, carrying poultry feed ingredients, peanut products and seed.

cp-logo-240Canadian Pacific and Genesee & Wyoming Inc. announced Jan. 2 that they have executed an agreement pursuant to which CP will sell the west end of its Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern line to G&W for continued rail operations.

The west end encompasses approximately 660 miles of CP’s current operations between Tracy, Minn., and Rapid City, S.D.; north of Rapid City to Colony, Wyo.; south of Rapid City to Dakota Junction, Neb.; and connecting branch lines, as well as trackage from Dakota Junction to Crawford, Neb., currently leased to the Nebraska Northwestern Railroad (NNW). Customers on the line ship approximately 52,000 carloads annually of grain, bentonite clay, ethanol, fertilizer and other products. The new rail operation will have the ability to interchange with CP, Union Pacific, BNSF and the NNW.

Read the complete story at eTurboNews.