Class 1s Tell STB Service Recovery Plans

Four Class 1 railroads have filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board their plans to improve their freight service.

All of them said they have hired and are training new conductors as the carriers seek to return their service to more normal levels.

The carriers have been saying for months that crew shortages have hindered their ability to meet the expectations of their shippers.

The recovery plans were recently ordered by the STB following hearings in late April focusing on service issues the railroads have been having.

Regulators also directed the railroads to provide more information regarding their performance metrics, including local spot and pull performance as well as on-time performance within 24 hours of the original estimated time of arrival for carloads and intermodal trains.

In its six-page plan, CSX said it expects to return to 2019 service levels by the end of the year and has set a goal of 80 percent on-time performance for merchandise traffic.

Currently, CSX merchandise traffic has a 69 percent on-time rate while intermodal has been above 95 percent.

CSX said its local spot and pull performance was 83 percent for the week ending May 13.

It also said another goal is to increase average train speed by 7 percent and reduce terminal dwell by 10 percent over the next six months.

 “CSX’s service recovery focus is primarily on conductor hiring and resolving crew shortage issues in certain locations on the network,” the carrier wrote. “Adding more [motive] power to through trains would not improve service performance for CSX.”

Norfolk Southern submitted a seven-page plan that expressed uncertainty about being able to return to 2019 service levels within the next six months.

Currently, NS said, its on-time rate for merchandise traffic is 48 percent. The plan said that such things as average train speed, terminal dwell time, local service performance, and on-time performance are affected by a multitude of factors. Therefore, setting any targets or making any forecasts would be “speculative at best.”

“Where trains are not meeting expected schedules, Norfolk Southern has relaxed certain energy management tools and Norfolk Southern will continue to do so where appropriate and where it would have a positive impact on network fluidity,” NS wrote.

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