Posts Tagged ‘CSX service issues’

CSX Expects ‘Noticeable Improvement’ after Labor Day

August 21, 2017

Look for CSX service to show noticeable improvement after Labor Day. That at least, is what the railroad has told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which has been monitoring CSX service in the wake of an avalanche of complaints by shippers.

In reporting to Congress, the STB said that Acting Chairman Ann Begeman has spoken with CSX head E. Hunter Harrison about the railroad’s plans to improve its service.

“Mr. Harrison indicated that internal metrics are showing that service in some areas is improving, and that he expects further noticeable improvements to be more evident after Labor Day,” the STB said in its letter to a Senate committee.

In the meantime, the STB has requested from CSX more detailed operating metrics and asked the railroad to review its plans affecting the Chicago gateway, given Chicago’s key role in the national rail network.

The STB is concerned about Barr Yard in Chicago where half of the workforce has been furloughed, a news report said.

The former Baltimore & Ohio yard is CSX’s main classification facility in Chicago. CSX has said that it continues to review its Chicago operations and no decision has been made to close Barr Yard or any other of its Chicago facilities.

Harrison, Shippers Continue Sniping Over Service Issues

August 21, 2017

CSX and its shippers continued their war of words last week with the shippers seeking an investigation of service and CSX head E. Hunter Harrison accusing the shippers of trying to use service issues as a platform on which to promote a political agenda that has little to nothing to do with current conditions.

The Rail Customer Coalition, an umbrella group for nearly four dozen trade associations representing manufacturing, agricultural, energy and retail industries, wants the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and Congress to intervene.

“With service disruptions continuing to mount and no solution in sight, our members need decisive action from Congress and the STB,” the Rail Customer Coalition wrote to the leaders of the Senate commerce committee and House transportation committee.

Contained within the letter, though was a plea for the STB to write and implement new rules to enable certain captive shippers to obtain reciprocal switching.

That demand did not go unnoticed at CSX headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. Noting that the shipper group did not come to CSX before going to federal officials in Washington, Harrison countered in a letter to the shippers that that was because “most likely  . . . your statements were made to advance your longstanding attack on the balanced approaches of the Staggers Act.”

As he has in the past, Harrison continued to insist that shippers will benefit from the precision scheduled railroading operating plan that he has been implementing at CSX.

Harrison also described the coalition’s assertions about poor CSX service as “many unfounded and grossly exaggerated statements . . . related to the service experienced by some customers.”

Harrison acknowledged that CSX has experienced what he termed “some unfortunate disruptions to our service, which we are addressing aggressively.”

He contended that CSX is addressing customers’ concerns while it works to improve communication with shippers.

“The changes we are implementing today will deliver measurable improvements in key service metrics, resulting in our customers’ freight moving more consistently, reliably, and cost efficiently across the CSX network,” Harrison said.

But Harrison said he won’t talk with the Rail Customer Coalition. “Since coalitions do not have service issues, we do not intend to continue a discussion with you about the service we provide to our customers,” he said.

However, he added that CSX would discuss “other completely unrelated topics like reciprocal switching, which are more central to your agenda.”

Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, said the Rail Customer Coalition’s letter was the result of broad agreement from the group’s members and that shippers have communicated with CSX about service issues.

“Furthermore, these service issues have not gone away, which is evident by the fact that the Surface Transportation Board was compelled to send a second letter to CSX earlier this week expressing concerns with the ‘widespread degradation of rail service’ across its network,” Jensen says. “This is yet another example of how important it is for Congress to fill the vacancies at the STB with members that understand that business as usual is no longer working.”

In its letter to Congress, the shipper organization said that problems at CSX are beginning to ripple across the North American rail network.

“This has put rail-dependent business operations throughout the U.S. at risk of shutting down, caused severe bottlenecks in the delivery of key goods and services, and has put the health of our nation’s economy in jeopardy,” the coalition said.

However, Trains magazine reported that neither Union Pacific nor BNSF Railway have posted customer advisories regarding interchange with CSX. Neither railroad would comment on the matter.

Trains quoted railroad industry analyst Anthony B. Hatch of ABH Consulting as saying that the CSX service problems are not yet on the scale of what happened in the 1990s after Union Pacific acquired Southern Pacific.

Many of the problems at CSX are related to increasing dwell times in yards, particularly those at which hump operations have been halted in favor of flat switching.

Figures reported to the Association of American Railroads indicate that the dwell time is greater than 40 hours in eight CSX terminals.

That can result in terminal congestion, cars missing their connections and transit times ballooning in the wrong direction.

CSX terminals experiencing the most delays include Indianapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; and Montgomery, Alabama.

The average dwell time in Indianapolis has risen to 58.5 hours. Dwell times in Nashville and Montgomery are 53.5 hours and 52.6 hours respectively.

CSX Intermodal shippers are also starting to notice delays. J.B. Hunt issued an updated service advisory warning customers to expect delays of 72 hours or more at seven terminals, including Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Memphis.

The most recent figures provided to the AAR show the average CSX train speed having sunk to 18.4 mph for the week ending Aug. 11, the lowest it’s been in the past year and the fourth straight week below 20 mph. In the third quarter of 2016, CSX’s average train speed was 20.8 mph.

Coal Companies Split on View of CSX

August 16, 2017

Not all coal companies are displeased with CSX these days.

Trains magazine reported that Hallador Energy has lauded the carrier, saying it has improved its service.

“We’ve been delighted that in July and now in August, the performance of the CSX has been much more precise and really, really quite good,” Hallador CEO Brent Bilsland said on the company’s recent quarterly earnings call.

Bilsland acknowledged that CSX service was subpar between April and June.

Hollador has mines in in Indiana and Illinois. “And if all of us are going to compete against natural gas, we’ve got to continue to strive to do so,” he said.

Those comments came in the wake of a complaint filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board by Murray Energy, which is seeking an order directing CSX to provide adequate service from Murray’s mines in West Virginia and Illinois.

Murray has taken a negative view of CSX’s cost-cutting efforts, saying that they have adversely affected service.

Foresight Coal Sales, which is aligned with Murray Energy, said CSX failed to provide one out of every five coal trains that Foresight requested and scheduled from January through June.

Although Foresight worked with the STB’s Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program, which quietly referees disputes between shippers and railroads, that did not result in service improvements.

Foresight said in a complaint to the STB that during the first week of August, CSX service declined further as it failed to provide eight scheduled trains, “possibly in retaliation for Foresight’s decision to invoke the Board’s Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program.”

Murray and its affiliated companies content that CSX has failed to provide trains and crews as scheduled, did not provide a sufficient number of trains, failed to pull loaded trains on schedule, delayed shipments in transit, and did not adequately communicate with customers.

“At this point, CSXT’s service in moving coal to Foresight’s customers can only be described as abysmal and a complete and total failure,” Foresight wrote.

A CSX spokesman said that the railroad strongly disagrees with Murray Energy’s statements and will respond fully and factually to any STB complaint.

CSX Union Hits Back at Harrison Obstruction Allegations

August 8, 2017

A CSX labor union has taken issue with assertions by the railroad’s CEO E. Hunter Harrison that some CSX workers are the reason for service issues.

In a letter to CSX shippers, Harrison contended that some CSX employees were resisting the changes that management has made in operations and that this was resulting in service disruptions.

Railway Age magazine reported Monday that it obtained a copy of a letter sent to Harrison last week by the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, which represents some CSX operating employees.

The letter was signed by SMART’s five co-chairmen and said that the union “ . . . refuses to accept responsibility for disruptions that negatively affect the customers when we have no input on operational changes. We receive minimal, and in most cases, no communication from any department about the significant changes being implemented almost daily.”

The letter said that Harrison has ignored the union’s repeated requests to be involved in planning changes and that it viewed the CEO’s charges as “a personal attack,” “a kick to the gut,” and “a severe blow to [employees’] morale.”

SMART criticized CSX for what the union termed “harsh treatment, furloughs and repeated violations of their collective bargaining agreement.”

In denying Harrison’s allegations that union members had intentionally disrupted operations, the SMART letter said, “This organization will not allow our members to serve as an excuse for management’s inability to communicate and execute your ‘precision scheduled railroading.”

The magazine reported in late July that CSX had changed work hours from four 10-hour days to five eight-hour days in an effort to reduce train delays.

However, that has made it more difficult for employees working far from home to get to work and back in a reasonable length of time.