NS Doing Targeted Hiring

Norfolk Southern told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board this week that it is hiring conductors due to rising freight volumes.

NS noted in its letter it has been able to operate with a smaller labor force because it is handling freight with fewer but longer trains.

However, it cited employee attrition, business growth, and changes in business patterns that have created the need for hiring in some locations.

NS is engaging in what it termed targeted hiring and as of June 11 had 114 conductors in training, with plans to start between 72 and 96 trainees each month through the end of the year.

The Class 1 carrier is also assigning workers on a temporary basis to areas where it is having crew shortages.

NS currently has 2,533 active locomotives in its fleet, and 585 in storage.

Last March, NS removed 50 locomotives from storage to help move freight during severe winter weather.

NS told the STB that its local carload service is rising and its unit train cycle times remain strong.

However, some intermodal terminal operations have become congested because ports, container supply, dray capacity, and warehouses and distribution centers have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian National told the STB that its U.S. operations are performing well, with carload trip plan performance at 90 percent in late May and intermodal trip plan compliance at 98.5 percent.

CN has hired 532 employees in the past few months, and plans to hire 287 new conductors by the end of June, 250 by the end of September, and 170 by the end of December.

In its letter, CN said it furloughed 433 conductors and 150 maintenance of way employees due to changing traffic patterns that have created a “surplus” of employees in some locations.

However, CN expects to recall most of those workers before the end of 2021 as freight traffic volumes continue to grow.

CN has removed 124 locomotives from storage but still had 46 locomotives in long-term storage in the U.S. as of May 23, compared to 38 at the same point last year.

It had 155 units in short-term storage compared with versus 127 a year ago.

In 2021 and 2022 CN expects to take delivery of 75 new locomotives with 25 of those arriving in in the second half of 2021 and the other 50 in the first half of 2022.

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