Reduced Workforce Follows PSR Operating Model

Although reducing the workforce is not often a stated objective by railroads practicing precision scheduled railroading, the Class I railroad employment figures reported every month by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board show that it has been a byproduct.

Since February 2017, employment at U.S. Class 1 railroads has fallen by 4 percent.

It was in March 2017 that the late E. Hunter Harrison became CEO of CSX and began implementing the operating model with which he is often associated.

An analysis by Trains magazine concluded that although railroad employment typically ebbs and flows in tandem with changes in traffic volumes, the STB figures suggest that Class I railroads are moving more traffic with fewer workers.

The analysis noted that rail traffic in May 2019 was 24 percent higher than February 2017 according to figures released by the Association of American Railroads.

Harrison had introduced PSR railroading at Canadian National and Canadian Pacific before he took over CSX. Before he went to Canada, Harrison had implemented PSR on the former Illinois Central, which later was acquired by CN.

In the past couple of years, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern have adopted the principles of PSR, which Trains said makes likely additional workforce reductions through the end of 2020.

At CSX, the workforce has fallen by 18 percent since it went to PSR. During that same period, the workforce at NS fell by 8 percent

Most of the positions cut at CSX fell into the category of executives, officials, and staff assistants, whose ranks were thinned by a third.

CSX also has seen a 29 percent cut in professional and administrative staff.

Some of the CSX staff reductions began under former CEO Michael Ward.

Beyond the office, CSX has cut its maintenance-of-equipment force by 22 percent by closing car and locomotive shops and reducing the work performed at surviving facilities.

Train and engine crew employment at CSX has fallen by 16 percent while the maintenance-of-way headcount is down 11 percent.

NS is expected to make similar reductions as it phases into operation its own PSR operating model known as TOP21.

Since last September NS has pruned its workforce by 5 percent with 11 percent of that coming from the ranks of executives, officials, and staff assistants.

Professional and administrative staff has fallen by 7 percent, transportation department employment other than train and engine crews has fallen by 9 percent, and the number of train crews is down by 6 percent.

NS expects its workforce to shrink by 3,000 positions, most of it via attrition by the end of 2020. That would be a reduction of 12 percent from its current employment.

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