CSX’s Key Metrics for Seamless Rail Services

CSX is a supplier of rail-based freight transportation in North America, and they recently restructured the operations and workforce. The STB (Surface Transportation Board) stated that they have received several “informal complaints” from shippers about CSX’s deteriorating rail services, which coincided with CSX’s restructuring process. To address the concerns, CSX is transitioning to precision scheduled railroading, which focuses heavily on service to customers and asset utilization, and STB has been monitoring CSX’s performance since last month, following complaints from shippers about the problems.

The concerns raised by railroaders, executives of the train, rail stakeholders and engine service level technicians are difficult to ignore. Some of the issues discussed include, increased transit times and unpredictable time schedule, the loaded and empty rail cars sit for days at yards, unreliable switching operations, inefficient car routings, poor communications and coordination with CSX customer service, and acute disruption to customers’ business operations.

Reports published by STB mentions that now onwards CSX’s own weekly operational data will be reported to the STB. Data include whether the system train speed is slowing or yard dwell time is increasing, along with the number of cars online. The STB has also been notified of delays resulting from CSX congestion in key gateways including New Orleans and St. Louis. In addition, the STB asked CSX to provide a detailed schedule for the remaining implementation of its new operating plan, including key action items and milestones for the rest of this year. To address the queries raised by STB, CSX has revised the way it calculates its service metrics to more accurately reflect the Class I’s operational performance. This performance data can be accessed via CSX website.

The service disruptions have led some rail shippers and their customers to curtail production, temporarily halt operations and/or use other transportation options that have added additional expense and inefficiencies to their operations. To address these concerns, STB in the letter to CSX has requested to report its plan to restore reliable service to its shippers in weekly calls with the Board’s Rail Customer and Public Assistance program. Specifically, CSX is expected to provide an overview of its operations, performance data of train on-time arrival and on-time departure, update on the congestion at critical yards and gateways, interchange operations with other Class I railroads, availability of equipment and manpower, local spot and pull reports, and service to customers with critical needs. The revised metrics address train velocity, terminal dwell, and cars online:

Train velocity: It includes a train’s end-to-end time and speed. The previous definition only counted time on the line of road and excluded intermediate dwell time for crew changes, freight car pick-up or set-off, or other work events at an intermediate yard. The updated definition includes intermediate dwell, reflecting the true speed of a train from origin to destination, and will help identify all opportunities to move trains faster and more reliably from origin to destination.

Terminal dwell: It includes all car dwell time encountered on an end-to-end trip. The previous definition excluded the amount of time a car spent at a terminal during an intermediate work event if it arrived and departed on the same train. The updated definition includes intermediate car dwell for terminal work events when a car arrives and departs on the same train.

Cars online: It measures the number of active freight rail cars on rail lines operated by CSX. The previous definition included all cars that were last reported on a line operated by CSX, which counted several categories of inactive freight rail cars.

The STB has been monitoring CSX’s performance since last month, following complaints from shippers about problems resulting from the Class I’s operational restructuring under new executive leadership. CSX is transitioning to precision scheduled railroading, which focuses heavily on service to customers and asset utilization. These revised service metrics will give CSX accurate understanding of how they are performing and would allow them to explore additional opportunities for improvement.

Based on the latest reports, the STB will hold a public listening session on Sept. 12, 2017, to hear from CSX about its recent rail service problems and efforts at recovery.