Toyota Canada praises CSX turnaround efforts

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WASHINGTON — CSX Transportation’s service has improved under CEO E. Hunter Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading operating model, Toyota Canada has told U.S. federal regulators.

“To date, we have noted numerous positive outcomes from the CSX changes,” Christopher McConnell, rail operations consultant for Toyota Canada, wrote in a letter that was posted to the Surface Transportation Board website on Thursday.

Toyota operates assembly plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ontario, that produce the Corolla and RAV4, as well as the Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h sport-utility vehicles.

Based on its experience with the Harrison-led Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, Toyota Canada knew what to expect as CSX began making sweeping operational changes. CSX has shifted most of its finished vehicle traffic out of unit trains and into the general merchandise network.

Initially, auto rack dwell times increased, McConnell wrote, as did the number of misrouted railcars.

“The new CSX team was very cooperative and helpful to us as the new operating changes began to be implemented,” McConnell wrote, which allowed Toyota to adapt when necessary.

On-time performance is up, dwell has been “reduced drastically,” data reporting has improved, and CSX’s car location and movement records are now among the best in the industry, McConnell wrote.

CSX also responds more quickly when there are service problems, McConnell wrote.

“The CSX marketing and sales professionals have an in-depth knowledge of operations, performance metrics, etc., which is not especially common in all marketing departments,” McConnell told regulators.

The railroad needs to focus, however, on reducing the number of misrouted railcars.

“This is a byproduct of significant change,” McConnell wrote.

Meanwhile, coal producer Contura Energy told the STB in a letter on Thursday that CSX service is becoming more consistent and car supply has significantly improved.

“Over the last several weeks … we have been encouraged by the improvement in service that we have seen from CSX,” Contura CEO Kevin Crutchfield wrote. Contura was the fourth coal shipper to back CSX’s operational changes in letters to the STB in the past week.

CSX experienced widespread service disruptions in July and August amid Harrison’s operational changes at the railroad. Ultimately, precision scheduled railroading will produce faster, more reliable service, Harrison says.
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