Squires: Three things have to happen before one-person crews

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NORFOLK, Va. – While presenting to shortline and regional railroad executives at the Norfolk Southern short line marketing meeting in Norfolk on Tuesday, CEO James A. Squires says there are three things that have to happen before the rail industry can expect one-person crews.

“First, the technology. The technology’s got to be there.”

With positive train control systems fully operational at the end of next year, Squires says that, along with interoperability of the safety technology and other investments by NS, the railroad will be technologically capable of operating with one-person crews by end of next year.

“But of course, that’s not the end of the story.”

“We have to have regulations that are, if not conducive to one-man crew operations, at least which do not prohibit one-man crew operations,” he says.

Squires says that based on recent Federal Railroad Administration findings, he does not expect the current administration to regulate minimum crew sizes.

“Moreover, FRA made it very clear in the rule that just described that they intend to preempt the state law governing crew consists," he says. "And so that should give us a powerful tool in which to seek to rollback state laws or proposed laws that seek to mandate two-man crews.”

In addition to technology and regulation, Squires says the third item is collective bargaining agreements. He says crew consists is a creature of the collective bargaining process and while he did not allude to upcoming negotiations, he underpinned that with the technology and regulations in place, there will come a time when NS seeks to bargain with crew consist changes.

“That’s going to be a very contentious and prejudice and time-consuming round of negotiations for reasons that I think are obvious to everyone.”

Squires goes on to discuss other topics in his Tuesday address, including Precision Scheduled Railroading, of which NS is rolling out its own adaptation, saying PSR is a win for shareholders, and it’s been proven repeatedly to be a sound and successful model. He said his introduction to PSR was a little rocky at first.

“It was one of those times when you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. My cell phone rang and the caller ID said Calgary, Alberta …” Squires said, recalling a November 2015 call from E. Hunter Harrison.

“So I did what any sensible person would do – I let it go to voicemail,” Squired quips, generating laughs from attendees.

While admitting his introduction to the operating philosophy got off on the wrong foot, he reiterated that it’s a sound model and even commended CSX for their efforts in implementing PSR.

Other NS executives to speak at the 18th annual conference included Chief Marketing Officer Alan H. Shaw, Chief Operating Officer Michael J. Wheeler, and Senior Vice President of Transportation Michael A. Farrell, among others.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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