Foote Defends PSR in Spirited Speech

CSX CEO James Foote gave a spirited defense of the precision scheduled railroading operating model during a speech to a shipper’s association, but acknowledged his company needs to do a lot of things differently.

As reported by Trains magazine on its website, Foote told attendees of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers that blaming the railroad industry’s recent service issues on PSR is nonsense.

In hindsight, Foote said CSX made mistakes during the COVID-19 pandemic, including laying off workers when business plummeted.

“If I had the decision to make over again . . . we would have never laid off an employee,” Foote said. “Never. But there was no vision of the future, there was no idea what we expected to encounter.”

Foote said at the time he and other railroad executives expected the business downturn to play out as had other business downturns with the same cycle of layoffs and recalls.

CSX laid off about 1,000 operating workers but when it attempted to recall them, many didn’t return.

The CSX train and engine workforce was about 7,000 at the end of 2019, dipped to about 6,000 during the pandemic and rose to 6,800 after recalls went out.

Although CSX hired another 2,000 T&E workers, its workforce has fallen to 6,600 T&E employees because about half of the new hires have quit within the first six months of employment.

Foote said that happened because they began realizing they would have to work on weekends and holidays or miss the birthdays of their children.

He said the industry needs to find ways to make railroad work more attractive.

“We need to provide employees with greater flexibility,” he said. “Is it a different kind of bid arrangement, where they can go work on this kind of job one day, and this kind of job another day — yard jobs, where they can have a regular assignment and work regular days off, and then the people that want to make more money can bid the road jobs.”

Foote also took issue with the criticism that Class 1 railroads are acting at the behest of powerful investors.

“Everybody says, ‘oh, my God, he’s beholden to Wall Street,’ ” Foote said. “Do you have any idea how much money CSX has lost because of our failure to move freight? Enormous amounts of money. This doesn’t benefit me. This doesn’t benefit the shareholder. This doesn’t benefit anybody.”

He described the criticism of PSR as an excuse to “blame the railroad management for something they intentionally did. It’s insanity.”

More of Foote’s comments can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/csxs-foote-blaming-psr-for-rail-problems-is-nonsense/

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One Response to “Foote Defends PSR in Spirited Speech”

  1. pwwoodring Says:

    Gee, they’re finally getting a clue on how to be human and humane.

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