Harrison, Foote to address conference as some shippers say CSX service deteriorates

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CSX Transportation CEO E. Hunter Harrison and new Chief Operating Officer James Foote will make their first public appearance together this week at a conference in Palm Beach as shippers raise new concerns about service problems.

Harrison and Foote, who were colleagues at Canadian National nearly a decade ago, will participate in a noon “fireside chat” on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the fifth annual Credit Suisse Industrials Conference. They are expected to field questions from Credit Suisse analyst Allison Landry.

Their appearance at the conference comes as CSX reports performance measures, including terminal dwell and average train speed, that are better than the averages for 2016.

But after a summer of service problems related to the accelerated rollout of Harrison’s Precision Scheduled Railroading operating plan, shippers still report erratic service, longer transit times, and errant carloads.

J.B. Hunt officials say service has deteriorated in recent weeks as CSX retools its intermodal operations. The changes — which include new schedules, blocking plans, and terminal operations — are part of the railroad’s drive to improve intermodal profitability.

“Regrettably, the numerous changes, combined with peak season volumes, have resulted in an extended degradation of service since the slight improvement observed post-Hurricane Irma,” J.B. Hunt said in a Nov. 21 service advisory. “Shipments continue to be delayed throughout the CSX network.”

The trucking company warned shippers of delays of up to 72 hours in Jacksonville, Fla.; Atlanta and Savannah, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; Memphis; Louisville, Ky.; and up to 48 hours in Chicago and central Florida.

Toyota Canada on Nov. 17 withdrew generally positive comments it made to federal regulators in October, saying they no longer reflect the service the automaker is receiving from CSX.

And under pressure from lawmakers, CSX last week reversed plans to curtail service to General Mills facilities, including a mill in Buffalo, N.Y., that makes Cheerios, The Buffalo News reported. CSX had planned to switch the Cheerios plant once a day, down from the current twice-daily service.

“As we progress the adaptation of Precision Scheduled Railroading across our network, CSX continues to respond to individual customer issues when they emerge,” spokesman Rob Doolittle says. “A good case in point is General Mills, where CSX has agreed to continue providing twice-daily service to General Mills' Buffalo facility as the company prepares for proposed changes to the rail-service schedule at its Buffalo plant. CSX remains committed to working with General Mills and all of our customers to meet their service requirements as we makes changes across our network to improve efficiency, safety, and customer service.”

CSX officials have said Foote is an important addition to the management team, particularly since he brings a deep background with Precision Scheduled Railroading.

He replaces both Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn and Chief Marketing Officer Fredrik Eliasson, who left CSX on Nov. 15 along with Ellen Fitzsimmons, who was the railroad’s chief legal officer.

Foote, 63, was named chief operating officer on Oct. 25. He was chief marketing officer at CN during Harrison’s tenure as chief operating officer and chief executive.
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