Shippers remain critical despite improvement in CSX performance metrics

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — CSX Transportation this week told federal regulators that its performance metrics continue to improve, but shippers weren’t necessarily seeing the numbers translate into better service.

Average terminal dwell improved for the eighth week in a row, while average train speed held steady for the fifth week, excluding lingering local effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, CSX executives told the Surface Transportation Board in their weekly conference call on Monday. On-time arrivals also held relatively steady, at 67 percent, according to the presentation posted to the CSX and STB websites on Thursday.

The railroad’s five remaining hump yards are performing well, CSX says, with volume well below yard capacity. Performance of six terminals on the western edge of the system — from Avon, Ind., to Mobile, Ala. — continued to improve and were at near normal levels. These terminals congealed in July and August and were the epicenter of CSX’s service problems.

CSX also said that local service — including placing or pulling cars from customer spurs — improved. But at 84 percent, it remains below the second-quarter average of 90 percent and the first-quarter average of 95 percent.

Last-mile service was a sore point for a South Carolina lumber company, which wrote to federal regulators this week to complain about CSX’s inability to deliver enough empty cars or to deliver them as scheduled.

January was the last month that Charles Ingram Lumber Co., of Effingham, S.C., received all the empty cars it ordered from CSX.

“Since then, the CSXT has repeatedly failed to deliver the total number of cars requested on the dates promised,” Ingram Vice President T. Furman Brodie wrote. “Additionally, CSXT has begun limiting us to five cars per week. However, we have not consistently received these cars per week or had them arrive on the days scheduled.”

Since April the railroad has only provided 76 percent of the cars ordered on an average monthly basis, a figure that slipped to 60 percent in July. Ingram also requested that it receive seven cars per week. The CSX sales team has been helpful, Brodie wrote, but the car management department does not return telephone calls.

“This level of service is unacceptable,” Brodie wrote.

The railroad’s service problems have increased the mill’s shipping and storage costs and delayed delivery of lumber to customers, he says.

A neighboring South Carolina sawmill decided to shift its business to truck, despite the extra expense, after CSX failed to provide service to the mill for seven straight days in August, Brodie wrote.

CSX began experiencing widespread service problems in July after sweeping operational changes CEO E. Hunter Harrison made while implementing his precision scheduled railroading operating model.

The new operating model will ultimately result in faster, more reliable service for the railroad’s customers, Harrison has said.
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