CSX wants to grow headcount so it can grow network capacity

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Adequate train and engine crew staffing would help improve CSX’s trip plan performance for carloads, Foote says

CSX is looking at how it attracts new hires as the railroad strives to add employees so that it has enough capacity to handle demand.

Like other industries, the railroads have encountered challenges finding potential employees, and that challenge has stunted CSX’s (NASDAQ: CSX) plans to improve service metrics such as terminal dwell and train velocity, said CSX President and CEO Jim Foote during his company’s second-quarter 2021 earnings call on Wednesday.

Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX needs to examine its hiring practices on a long-term basis to ensure that there will be qualified applicants down the pipeline, according to Foote. The challenge in this current environment is that although the jobs — particularly for train and engine crews — pay well and have good benefits, those perks aren’t attracting people as they once did, he said.

A referral system will help CSX in the short term, but “I’m convinced, and I think the team is convinced, that we need to look at this from a long-term perspective and say, ‘What do we really need to do to make sure that we have a stable, long-term pipeline of people that enjoy coming to work and doing what they need to do?’” Foote said.

He continued, “We have to look at the whole big picture and we’ll do that because we need employees to run railroads, simple as that. And so we’re going to change our thoughts, our processes and throwing money at people these days is not the answer.”

CSX had said early this year that it would be hiring more employees, according to Foote. And although it has hired 200 new employees so far this year to make up for those lost to attrition and to bolster its roster, that total is several hundred short of what the railroad had hoped to hire by this point in the year. It has been hard to find people wanting to be train conductors, he said…