On March 13 in Chicago, Ill., Starling was joined by several members of KCS' leadership team, his mentors and his wife, Candace, at a Western Railway Club dinner in his honor.
Following dinner, Starling had an opportunity to speak to the guests in assembly. He expressed his gratitude for Railway Age's recognition of KCS and touched on a number of issues affecting the railroad industry as a whole. In closing, he summarized five topics on which he recommends the next generation of railroad industry leaders focus:
"1. Remember the lessons of history and protect the extremely successful and balanced regulatory environment we enjoy today; yet be willing to work with shippers and regulators to improve the process for rate cases and ensure shippers have a fair, accessible and efficient forum by which their concerns can be heard.
"2. Continue to foster the current rail renaissance by re-investing in infrastructure, equipment and human resources so the rail industry can keep North America competitive and create new jobs for our people in the global economy.
"3. Be prepared to recruit the next generation of railroaders from a pool of young people who will need a strong work ethic and then make investments in training and knowledge transfer that will allow them to be successful. And be prepared to adapt management styles to meet the needs of a new demographic in the workforce, characterized by technological sophistication, greater diversity and different expectations regarding work-life balance.
"4. Find ways to work together within the existing regulatory and economic framework to improve the rail industry's market share, interoperability and efficient interchange; explore joint marketing agreements where they make sense; fortify our relationships with the short line and regional railroads our suppliers and service providers; communicate better and ultimately, work together to continually improve service to our customers.
"5. Make sure we never forget, and never let the American public forget, the indispensable importance of the rail industry to the North American economy and the need to keep this industry healthy and able to grow. It is the most efficient, environmentally responsible and privately financed way to move goods we need for everyday life. We can never forget its importance to our national competitiveness."
To see more of Starling as Railroader of the Year watch the video of his interview here.