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05 Apr 2018

Railroads—Big Changes, Big Impact

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Recent months have seen a number of announcements regarding significant leadership changes in the railroad industry. To begin, Ron Batory was sworn in as the Federal Railroad Administration’s 14th administrator on February 28th. Batory has had a long career in railroading, having come most recently from his position as COO at Conrail. Another announcement involves Canadian National President and CEO Luc Jobin, who resigned amid the backlogged Canadian grain crisis and was replaced in the interim by Jean-Jacques Ruest, a 22-year veteran and former CN Executive Vice President and CMO. Canadian Pacific is also bringing in a new player to the grain market by adding Joan Hardy—formerly of Canada’s largest agri-business, Richardson International—as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Finally, CSXT lost CEO Hunter Harrison, who passed away unexpectedly in December 2017. There is no news as to whether Jim Foote, his replacement, will be the long-term choice to lead the CSXT into the future. Foote was previously President and CEO of Bright Rail Energy, a tech company whose products allow locomotives to run on natural gas power.

In addition to leadership changes, the railroads are working hard on various technological innovations. BNSF has joined BiTA, the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, and other railroads are sure to follow. Several railroads, including BNSF and NS, have recently rolled out new customer portals driven by upgraded technology to improve daily interactions. Finally, railroads are also developing new sensor and data-gathering technology, like UP’s “Machine Vision,” that will allow the inspection and weighing of cars—among other capabilities—without human intervention, speeding up transit times.

New leadership and new technologies often drive change in organizations and processes. With regard to the railroads, those changes can be very positive, but can often lend negative direct and indirect effects to the accuracy of freight billing. Over our 30 plus years in business, AMTR has eased clients through many times of change by providing continuity of transportation and operational knowledge.

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