Squires 'pleased' with NS operations changes

NS CEO outlines benefits of operations changes that are similar to Precision Scheduled Railroading
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NSmugJamesSquires
James Squires, NS CEO
Norfolk Southern
LAKE GENEVA, Wis. — Norfolk Southern is looking ahead with its newly implemented TOP21 operations plan, in use now for less than a month. The comments come from NS CEO James Squires at the summer meeting of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers at the Grand Geneva Resort.

“I think it’s going well so far in Norfolk Southern’s case,” Squires says. “I wish we had started down this path sooner.”

Squires says that the new NS operating plan, its version of “Precision Scheduled Railroading,” is focused on service, efficiency, and growth.

He says the company had the “benefit of observing PSR from the sidelines,” and “gained a unique understanding, a belief of how we can do PSR right, do it our way.”

Prior to rolling out its operating changes this summer, NS hosted 18 town hall meetings with customers and marketing teams. One month prior, the railroad provided customers with lane-by-lane analysis of upcoming changes.

“I’m pleased at how seamless the switchover has been for customers,” Squires says. “More than 80 percent of carloads in our merchandise network have different trip plans” compared with before the new operations plan. He says it enables the company to do more with less.

Squires says freight cars on line are down 18%, shipment consistency is improved 71%, terminal dwell times are down 39%, and customer volumes are up 77% for customers served six days a week or more. That translates to 30,000 fewer freight cars needed in 2019 than in 2018. The resulting surplus can be used to support traffic growth, he says. The railroad has stored more than 600 locomotives in past six months because of the better utilization.

“We appreciate, very much, your spirit of collaboration with us,” Squires says, noting that PSR has brought “urgency and discipline to operations.”

Addressing a question from the audience, Squires notes the company is “taking a look at” its demurrage policy after customer complaints.

However, Squires says he believes that better equipment usage and increased velocity is in everybody’s best interest.

Regarding the economy, the company is “looking for a resumption of growth in the second half,” noting that the “economy is fundamentally sound.”


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