CSX boosted first quarter revenue 6 percent year-over-year to nearly $3 billion despite volume rising only 1 percent, exemplifying the strong pricing power major railroads have amid moderate freight growth.
The first major North American railroad to report quarterly earnings this year hit a first quarter profit record, as earnings rose 13.7 percent year-over-year to $449 million. Although coal traffic, the railroad's largest commodity business, fell 14 percent year-over-year, the revenue per coal carload rose 10 percent in the same period.
“Although utility coal-related headwinds are likely to be stronger in the second quarter, CSX remains on track to achieve year-over-year earnings growth in 2012," CSX President, Chairman and CEO Michael Ward said.
CSX intermodal volume rose 8.4 percent in the same period, while revenue per intermodal unit increased 9.6 percent. Aside from coal, agriculture shipments also declined, but a jump in chemical, and motor vehicle and equipment shipments helped offset the drop.
Improvements in service, productivity and cost control increased the company’s operating income 11 percent to a first quarter record $856 million, CSX said. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad also reported an operating ratio of 71.1 percent, a 140-basis-point improvement year-over-year.