Posts Tagged ‘Clarence Gooden’

Ex-CSX President Looks Back on His Time There

October 2, 2018

Long before E. Hunter Harrison became CEO at CSX, the railroad’s management team was already studying the precision scheduled railroading model and had adopted some of its principles.

That was the message that Clarence Gooden, the CSX Transportation president who retired after Harrison became CSX CEO, told the North East Association of Rail Shippers last week.

Gooden said CSX adopted such practices as laying off employees, mothballing locomotives, closing some small yards, and shuttering 11 of its smaller car and locomotive repair shops.

CSX under former CEO Michael Ward also began running longer trains in an effort to reduce train starts and improve crew and locomotive utilization, and increased its use of distributed power.

Although CSX closed a couple of the 14 humps it operated at the time , Gooden said the carrier should have closed four or five more humps.

The moves during the Ward administration were in response to the Great Recession of 2008 and a sharp drop in coal traffic.

Coal provided a 53 percent profit margin and when it declined, it was a major blow to the CSX balance sheet.

Losing coal traffic cost CSX $1.5 in revenue as the domestic utility coal market collapsed over a five-year period.

Gooden expects CSX to take another hit in lost coal revenue starting in 2023 when a wave of retirements of coal-fired power plants is expected to begin.

He predicted that CSX and NS alike will spin off or close many of their coal-dependent routes.

Although intermodal traffic might pick up some of the slack left by falling coal traffic, Gooden said intermodal traffic is not nearly as profitable as coal.

The Eastern railroads might have to live with higher operating ratios due to declining coal traffic and an increase in intermodal business.

Gooden spoke favorably of the changes that Harrison introduced during his less than a year at the helm of CSX before his death.

But he also defended the accomplishments of the railroad during the Ward years.

From 2004 to 2017, CSX’s stock price went from $5.13 to $36.88.

Other achievements that Gooden cited included making the hiring of veterans a priority, launching an ad campaign promoting the efficiency of rail transportation, having the distinction of being the safest Class I railroad.

At the same time Gooden said CSX should have adopted technology much faster. He said automating yard operations and taking advantage of the operational benefits of positive train control will be a focal point for reducing costs.

Gooden also believes that CSX should have developed closer ties with short line and regional railroads because of their importance in feeding traffic.

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