2008 William A. Patterson Transportation Lecture

America's Transportation Challenge

Matthew K. Rose
Chairman, President & CEO of BNSF Railway
Member of the National Surface Transportation
Policy and Revenue Commission

Matthew K. Rose became the first member of the babyboom generation to head a major North American railroad when he was named the CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (BNSF) in 2000. He brought a new attitude to the staid industry, which had been notorious for its lack of younger members in top management. Having spent part of his career in marketing, Rose also came to his job with a focus on customer service, an outlook that for some time had been sorely lacking in an industry with a reputation for unreliability. Rose's experience in the trucking industry also helped him to transform BNSF. As a leader, he was optimistic, open, and supportive, but also decisive and tough-minded.

Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway merged in September 1995, forming Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation. After the merger Rose became vice president of chemicals, a position he held until May 1996, when he was promoted to senior vice president of the merchandise business unit. His quick rise through the management ranks of BNSF continued in August of the following year with his promotion to senior vice president and chief operations officer. He was now in charge of coordinating transportation, maintenance, quality, purchasing, labor relations, and information services. In June 1999 Rose was named president and chief operating officer, with the clear understanding that he was now being groomed to succeed BNSF's chief executive officer, Robert D. Krebs.

Rose became the CEO at BNSF in December 2000, with Krebs retaining the chairmanship. Krebs had nothing but high praise for his 41-year-old protégé. He told the Journal of Commerce , "He is tough- minded, but he is an optimist. He is decisive, yet thorough.

Rose took over a railroad that operated on 35,500 route miles of track in 28 western states and two Canadian provinces and generated more than $9 billion in annual revenues, second in size only to Union Pacific. The hard-driving Krebs had done a good job in cutting costs, which allowed BNSF to survive and start to invest in capital improvements, leaving Rose with different priorities, which included growing revenues to meet rail's ferocious appetite for capital, investing in new facilities, and acquiring more efficient locomotives and freight cars. To accomplish these goals, he had to win back market share from truckers as well as forge partnerships between trucking and rail. One tool he hoped to utilize more was the Internet, putting to use some of the techniques used by airlines to better match supply and demand for rail service as a way to maximize revenue.

Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation operates one of the largest rail systems in North America, with 32,000 route miles covering 28 states and two Canadian provinces.