CSX Hiring New Conductors, Making Service Changes

CSX told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board this week that it is hiring more conductors.

In a letter to regulators, the carrier said its service is improving due to operational adjustments that have reduced congestion, particularly along the Gulf Coast.

“We’re making significant progress and we recognize there is more to be done,” CEO James Foote said. “We are investing in our workforce and network while engaging frequently with our customers to ensure their freight is reaching consumers in a safe and reliable manner.”

The letter was sent in response to an STB inquiry of all Class 1 railroads seeking information on how they are getting ready to handle increased traffic.

STB Chairman Martin J. Oberman said regulators are responding to shipper complaints about rail service as traffic rebounded from an economic downturn triggered last year by the CVOID-19 pandemic.

STB asked railroads for information on their hiring plans, as well as current crew and locomotive availability.

Some trade associations had singled out CSX as having widespread service issues due to crew shortages.

Foote said CSX was caught short as were other businesses by the fallout from the pandemic.

He acknowledged that railroads have seen a surge in volume and that the supply chain has endured a variety of capacity constraints among various transport modes, shippers and receivers.

“For some traffic we were able to move blocking to fluid yards and bypass constrained yards to provide more direct routing to customers,” Foote wrote. “We also partnered with other railroads to increase hand-off efficiencies and avoid congested interchanges where possible. For example, we moved a number of trains from the crowded New Orleans gateway to the more fluid Memphis gateway.”

Aside from hiring new crew members, CSX said it has stepped up recalling furloughed crews as volume has recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

“CSX’s T&E active staffing levels have been brought back to within 4 percent of the pre-pandemic levels (6,851 now versus 7,132 March 2020) and we continue to hire and train employees in effort to get ahead of rising demand,” Foote wrote. “As of June 1, 2021, less than 1 percent of CSX T&E employees remain furloughed. The few places they remain on furlough are in locations with less volume recovery.”

Foote indicated CSX plans to hire nearly 500 new conductors this year. Thus far it has hired almost as many conductors as it did in 2019 and 2020 combined.

Foote said CSX has enough locomotives to handle current and expected demand, with 2,349 active units, 70 stored ready for immediate service, and 400 in longer-term storage.

He said the railroad is working with shipper groups to respond to their members’ service complaints.

“Our review to date has pointed to the Gulf region coupled with a few other isolated spots and most of the identified concerns relate to conditions earlier in the year,” Foote wrote.

CSX intermodal operations have been hindered by slowdowns in loading and unloading of containers at customer facilities, which has created a backlog in intermodal terminals and shortages of both chassis and dray drivers.

To mitigate that situation, CSX has begun using off-site container yards at Memphis and Indianapolis to remove long-dwelling containers from its terminals.

Foote said the CSX reservation system has helped balance incoming loads and train and terminal capacity.

Some adjustments have been made at individual terminals.

“In Chicago, we recently shifted a large portion of international traffic out of Bedford Park into our 59th Street terminal while moving a large portion of domestic traffic from 59th Street to Bedford Park,” Foote said.

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