Shippers have mixed views on management change at CSX Transportation

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Shippers have mixed views on whether new CSX Transportation CEO E. Hunter Harrison will bring positive change to the railroad.

Cowen and Co. Managing Director Jason Seidel surveyed shippers at the North East Association of Rail Shippers spring conference on April 27. Shippers were asked if they had a positive, neutral, or negative view of the management change at CSX.

Just over half had a neutral view, 27 percent had a negative view, and 19 percent had a positive view. One shipper said pending service changes — and the disruption they could cause in the short-term — was their top concern about the industry.

In April, during CSX’s first-quarter earnings call, Harrison said the implementation of precision scheduled railroading at CSX would dramatically improve the speed and reliability of the railroad’s service.

“It’s a new era for our company,” Dennis Reiner, director of rail asset sales for CSX, said during a panel discussion at the conference, held before the survey results were released.

Shippers’ expectations have changed in recent years. They want more speed to market, Reiner says.

“We have to get faster and we have to get better,” he says. “We will do what we say we will do.”

CSX was already improving service and tightening intermodal schedules, Reiner says, but Harrison is accelerating the pace of change. Last year at this time, CSX intermodal trains had 81 percent on-time performance, Reiner pointed out. Today CSX’s intermodal on-time performance is in the low 90-percent range, he says.

The railroad’s investments in new and expanded terminals — such as in Pittsburgh, slated to open this summer, and the planned Carolina Connector terminal in Rocky Mount, N.C. — and elsewhere across the system will help it capture traffic that now moves over the road.

Shippers responding to the Cowen survey overwhelmingly had a positive view of the economy and said they expected the electronic logging device mandate for truckers to tighten trucking capacity. Truckers must install the technology by a December deadline. It is widely expected to help railroads divert loads from road to rail.

The first day of the shipper conference morphed into a gala send off for Joseph Gearin, who is retiring as executive director of the North East Association of Rail Shippers. He’s been a driving force in the group for four decades.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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