CN Taking Steps to Get Through Pandemic

Canadian National has taken a number of steps to weather the COVID-19 pandemic including spacing out dispatchers, furloughing employees and cutting costs.

CN President J.J. Ruest said during a webcast to investors this week that carload traffic fell 7 percent last week and is down by 6 percent for the year.

In particular intermodal traffic, crude oil and frac sand have fallen and auto traffic is expected to decline due to automakers closing plants and slumping auto sales.

The Montreal-based carrier has furloughed 1,400 operations employees. It plans to keep them in a reserve work force that can step in for workers who are ill or being quarantined.

Some small yards have closed and CN plans to mothball locomotives and freight cars as traffic declines.

Ruest said the carrier is taking steps to protect its workers, including having office employees work from home where possible and increasing its cleaning and disinfecting of locomotives, intermodal terminal cranes, shops, and offices where people need to work.

Canadian operations are being dispatched from three locations instead of two and U.S. operations are being dispatched from two offices rather than one center in the Chicago region.

Chief Financial Officer Ghislain Houle said during the webcast that the carrier is well-positioned to weather a downturn due to its strong cash position and flexible credit arrangements.

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