FTR conference reviews PSR

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
File photo courtesy of KCS

Freightwaves is reporting the outcome of a precision scheduled railroading discussion held at the FTR 2019 Transportation Conference in Indianapolis from September 10-12.  FTR is a freight transportation intelligence company with a wide variety of clients, including financial organizations, freight carriers and equipment manufactures.

During the PSR discussion, there was a consensus that PSR had both had positive and less-than-positive impacts of different groups in the freight industry.

For example, Glenn Smith, a procurement officer for Wayne Farms, and consultant John Schmitter, the head of KEP LLC, both agreed that PSR has not impacted operations in a huge way.  However, they worry about possible impacts for the future.

“When PSR first came in through CSX, it was the speed at which it was implemented,” Smith said. “That was a challenge for everybody.”  After the late Hunter Harrison implemented PSR at Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railroads, he was hired at CSX to implement it, and most agree that he tried to implement it too quickly at CSX, creating chaos for railroad operations, employees, and railroad customers.

Schmitter added that, so far, the implementation of PSR by Class One roads in the U.S. has had mixed results.  “Once they got over some of the startup issues, it has improved reliability.”  However, both he and Smith said that in the long-run, asset utilization on these railroads is so inflexible, raising questions on how well a road would deal with an unexpected growth in traffic, much like we saw in 2014 when the explosion of crude by rail strained capacity to the point that there were significant crew shortages on several railroads.

Smith said that “It’s all about the stock price.  It’s not about helping the customer.”

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