Service Woes Get Airing at Shipper Conference

Shippers and Class 1 railroad executives discussed service issues this week during presentations at the North East Association of Rail Shippers meeting.

Top executives of CSX and Norfolk Southern insisted that although their service isn’t what anyone wants it to be, they are working to improve it.

The executives said their efforts are being hindered by crew shortages and supply chain disruptions.

Farrukh Bezar, CSX’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer, said the carrier has full conductor training classes and expects to increase significantly its operating employee ranks by the middle of the summer.

NS Chief Marketing Officer Ed Elkins made a similar pledge and repeated a common refrain that Class 1 executives have been making for months that it has faced higher than expected attrition among its work force and is having a tough time hiring new workers during a tight labor market.

Elkins, who began his railroad career as a conductor, said NS has a record number of conductors in training.

One shipper told the conference that his company has shifted loads that once moved in intermodal service to trucks.

That has cost more, said Ken Sanchez, the president of Chesapeake Products of Baltimore, and the company has passed those costs on to its customers.

He said carload traffic it ships by rail, including loaded hopper cars bound for Ohio, has sat in railroad yards for days and endured terminal delays, slow trains and car shortages.

The customer service departs of railroads have been non-responsive.

The crew shortage issue was emphasized by Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR Transportation Intelligence.

He said no carrier could say it is satisfied with the service it is providing.

More information about the presentations can be found at the website of Trains magazine at

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