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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / CSX’s Ward says one-person crews are ‘inevitable’ NEWSWIRE

CSX’s Ward says one-person crews are ‘inevitable’ NEWSWIRE

By Bill Stephens | January 18, 2017

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CSX Chairman Michael J. Ward
CSX Chairman Michael J. Ward
CSX Corp. Chairman Michael Ward
CSX Transportation
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — During a conference call with financial analysts and investors this morning, CSX Transportation CEO Michael Ward says that smaller crews are “inevitable.”

Ward was responding to a question about whether railroads will be able to reduce crew sizes in response to autonomous trucks, which are looming on the horizon.

“There’s going to be autonomous vehicles out there. There’s no question. The only question is when and how much they will be deployed,” Ward says. With CSX planning to deploy positive train control by 2020, “one does have to question why there has to be two people in the crew.”

“Longer term, that’s something we’re going to have to address,” Ward adds, saying that he expects challenging negotiations with labor unions about the issue.

But he says one-person crews are “inevitable. It’s just a question of when.”

Ward’s comments come days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear a petition from Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway managers who tried to substitute managers for conductors on freight trains in 2013. And, late last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation created a new office on automation that is expected to guide and eventually regulate vehicles that lack direct human inputs to move.

18 thoughts on “CSX’s Ward says one-person crews are ‘inevitable’ NEWSWIRE

  1. Flying cars once loomed on the horizon too. This is nonsense. The real driver here is to put more money in the boardroom’s pockets.

  2. This guy must have binged on the Jetsons this weekend and how much more profit would the stockholders realize if we canned this guy and his minions.

  3. I would remind all readers that trucks operate on highways paid for by your tax dollars, and maintained at your expense. The licensing and fees that they pay are derisory compared to the overall cost of maintaining highway infrastructure. The same is true of all inland water and much coastal tranportation, whose infrastructures were built by you tax dollars and are operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers or other government agencies in some cases, again with your tax dollars. The railways got land grants for original construction and minimal assistance for the US government, and were financed largely by private investors, and maintained by the railroad at their own expense. Technology moves on, and single-person operation is going to happen regardless of what many of us feel is something which will increase the risk of accident, and affect employee and public safety adversely. This is not about employment, this is about profitability, pure and simple.

    A conductor in road service (that is what is being discussed here-yard conductors are long gone since beltpaks came in) costs approximately 145,000$US in salary, benefits, and pension contributions (some of which come out of the workers’ paychecks). If 19,000 jobs are eliminated, the industry stands to recover 2.75 Billion Dollars annually, which will offset about one-third of what PTC is costing them out of pocket as mandated by your government in the interest of public safety. PTC technology is a definite safety enhancement that give Ward’s argument weight.

    I don’t believe that the profit motive should reign supreme, but the railroads are paying a lot of money for the 2nd crewman and simply challenging the necessity for their presence on freight trains is natural response to the changing operating environment. Ward is right in stating that it should be negotiated, but given the use of Presidential Boards and binding arbitration in the rail industry to settle contentious issues that can affect the entire economy of the nation, I do not expect the unions to win this argument with the incoming Republican Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress and Senate.

    And I would remind the readers that I exprienced this change personally twenty years ago. It was not a pleasent experience. US railroaders, it is your turn to get squeezed. Welcome to the club.

  4. I guess there is two points that loom large.
    One thought, Congress trying to mandate two person crew while driverless trucks are being tested on the road. Our another way to put it, Railroad Executives/Shareholders might not get their wish even as JB Hunt and or FedEx Freight/UPS does.
    Second thought. Does the added risk and liabilities of one person crew let alone if you got problems on the road & only one guy to deal with it worth the cost savings. Trade cost savings for bid headaches & expensive problems when things go wrong. Especially with the longer and heavier trains for commodities such as grains, potash or scheduled loose car trains between terminals. As Edward noted, looking at it objectively is important.
    Of course this might be all mute as CSX executive also has a different perspective. The need for scheduled most likely smaller & more frequent container trains to compete with truckers on the I95 corridor say. CSX will have their new Virginia Ave tunnel in DC, be rebuilding Baltimore tunnels if not mistaken and probably looking hard on trying to get FEC into their fold as a means to replace the declining coal traffic. One person shuttle runs might be on his mind to offset the highly competitive truck market in a period of cheaper gas (which only helps truckers more)

  5. Before CSX starts believing this is the way to do business they should realize their profits came from those that have had to literally sell their life in exchange for paychecks. Whether it be graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, or deaths the employees are expected to be at work and not distracted. They are given a hard time when they try to take time off, or are unable to make it to work due to weather conditions. What drives this, and all railroads, is the human employee who is away from their family and who is on call 24/7/365. But yet CSX thinks it’s perfectly fine to “recover” money paid to an employee with no warning nor explanation, and no remedy on how to get money back from CSX that was rightfully theirs and has in essence been stolen, the definition of theft is the receipt of goods or services without paying. The savings and profits that are being put forth are not made by management or the corporate workers, but those employees on the ground who build and move trains, and who maintain the tracks those trains move on. Furthermore, if CSX cared about their employees and the general public of the towns in which their trains run they would not propose one man crews as this is a safety issue on many different levels. There will be no one there to provide first aid in the case of an emergency, most of the time trains are not accessible by vehicle, nor will there be a second set of eyes or even that voice of company on 12+ hour trips. When you isolate a person they begin to have social issues, and thus another reason for the second person on the train. Humans make mistakes, but CSX thinks that all their losses are by human error not mechanical. Nothing is perfect, mechanical parts fail, but a caring hand, a kind word, and a prayer are so much more in time of emergency. This is a lesson that CSX needs to take notice of. This is the perfect example of someone with too much money and power, and no clue of what it takes for them to make that money.

  6. What is the percentage of the total cost of moving 1 ton of freight brought by having a second crewmember? I can’t believe it is enough to make trains not competitive with trucks
    What is the cost of delays when no one is close by to handle problems where a crewmember must leave the cab or on line switching ?
    I hope somebody has actually studied these objectively.

  7. Haven’t they been talking about roving conductors that handle territories rather than be assigned to trains?

  8. To Beth Sisco –

    You make it sound like the employee is out there for the good of the railroad – Bulldinky – the employee, and the union, is out there for the good of the employee – and that’s how it should be. The railroad is out there for the managers and shareholders – and that’s how that should be. Sure they cooperate and stuff – but don’t get the motives mixed up.

    Something else to think about – if the railroads can’t be competitive with trucks, then they will lose business. If they lose business, they will have to let go of employees. In the long run, reducing costs to be competitive helps everybody – employees, managers, and shareholders.

    I remember the days of five man crews, rate regulation, and the terrible, terrible times the railroads went through 50 years ago. But the union and employees didn’t help matters with their stand on crew size and work rules at that time. (and neither did the managers with their blinders and idiot decisions) – in the end everybody lost – the employees lost their jobs, the managers lost their jobs, and the shareholders lost their money.

  9. And a fine point regarding definitions” a “crew” can only be more than one person. A one-person operator on a train, a ship, a plane or in an automobile is just that — one person. Good luck when a mile-long train breaks a drawbar, or a brake hose fails or the train lines freeze up in foul winter weather. What then? Dispatch a stockholder to find the problem and make the repair? I should live so long.

  10. lets make this perfectly clear , its not safe , its not smart its just wrong , don,t cheep out on safety, one accident with a single man crew is one to many ,opps bad idea

  11. In Australia they have one person crews for the mine runs but there is nothing else out there and the unit trains are full sets. In several other countries they have one person freight trains but they might have 30 cars. Here in the US you have a mix of passenger and freight trains with multiple railroad crossings and high density neighborhoods. We are now running 150 to 250 car trains and derailments and break aparts are happening. Stick a one person crew on a train and pull a knuckle and will you expect the engineer to set the engine breaks and then set the brakes on 30% of the cars so there is no runaway , then walk the train to find the trouble. If it is a knuckle do you expect the engineer to walk a mile back to the lead unit to get a spare plus tools and then walk back and replace it then walk back to release the brakes but then set them again to walk back an verify it worked. Oh yah how about at the same time you have all the main streets in a town blocked for the

  12. one more thing Mr. Michael ward ,the Maine& Atlantic railway used one man crews and the result of that was ? The town of Lac- Megantic Quebec lost 30 buildings in the downtown area 47 people killed . this is great example of why ONE MAN CREWS are not the way to save money at the expence of peoples lives and safty! wake up but don,t smell the bacon just yet !

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