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News Wire: CSX volume and earnings recover, but finding new train crews remains a challenge

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Posted by Brian Schmidt on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 6:50 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CSX Transportation won’t be able to get its merchandise service back to pre-pandemic levels until it can hire enough train and engine crews to handle strong volume growth.

That likely won’t happen before the end of the year because the railroad is struggling to hire conductors in an extremely tight labor market, executives said on the railroad’s earnings call on Wednesday.

https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/csx-volume-and-earnings-recover-but-finding-new-train-crews-remains-a-challenge/ 

Brian Schmidt, Associate Editor Trains Magazine

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 6:54 PM

Brian Schmidt
...That likely won’t happen before the end of the year because the railroad is struggling to hire conductors in an extremely tight labor market, executives said on the railroad’s earnings call on Wednesday.

And then we see how many of them sign on when they find out about furloughs as soon as the 'tight market' relaxes, or more PSR reductions happen, or business doesn't recover as anticipated...

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 7:03 PM

Overmod
 
Brian Schmidt
...That likely won’t happen before the end of the year because the railroad is struggling to hire conductors in an extremely tight labor market, executives said on the railroad’s earnings call on Wednesday. 

And then we see how many of them sign on when they find out about furloughs as soon as the 'tight market' relaxes, or more PSR reductions happen, or business doesn't recover as anticipated...

I have no idea what the current return from furlough statistics are.  When I was working about 30% or less of those that got furloughed would return when recalled.  I also believe that PSR eliminated CSX's REDI school that provided training to new hires in each of the craft areas of employment.  I have no idea what is going to be done to provide 1st level training to new hires.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 7:21 PM

I don't think people ever LIKED working weekends, nights, holidays, or outdoors in any weather.  I think A LOT of employees booked off in the past, just as they do now, and there used to be enough others to fill the voids or trains would simply wait until crews became available. 

I wonder what the details of the new availability agreement are, and how it is viewed by Conductors? 

Boychuk's tenure at CN was laughable, the stories about his time here are legendary.  Suffice it to say that CSX is welcome to keep him. 

I hope their tablets work better than ours.

Also, cutting back on harassment tactics and committing to not use the drones to spy on employees probably wouldn't hurt the new hire retention rate.......

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 7:25 PM

I was not looking so much at return-from-furlough statistics as how many prospective 'candidates' will quit before signing up when they find out how the furlough 'thing' works with their "careers".

My understanding is that, more and more, the applicant pool has the 'wrong stuff' attitudinally to be good railroaders, or learn how to be.  If on top of that, they continue to be subjected to wack calling procedures, more and more conflicting nit-pick 'responsibilities' and intrusions, the wrong sort of weed-weasel "discipline", and continuation of the institutionalized split between fair work and 'owner-driven management' misprioritization... where is even the cadre to train the upcoming cohorts going to come from within a few years?

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 7:35 PM

SD70Dude
I don't think people ever LIKED working weekends, nights, holidays, or outdoors in any weather.

I don't think that's as much the issue as that, in many alternative careers, people would receive in addition to a reasonable living wage some reward or inducement for working weekends, nights, holidays, or in poor conditions.  Or would have some advance warning when required to work outside circadian-rhythm, etc., with more and more conflicting things to watch and be held accountable for.

Note the looming and structural OTR driver shortage that occurred in part when railroad-like hours-of-service restrictions were enforced on that industry.  Be interesting to see how that gets 'resolved'... including into the age that autonomous operation in some corridors and circumstances becomes tried.

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Posted by Juniata Man on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 8:11 PM

Based on a new CSX conductor recruitment video I've seen, they have reopened their REDI Center here in Atlanta.

Other comments here are spot on! Until railroads begin treating their operating people with some respect and refrain from what I would characterize as aggresive and at times vindictive discipline, people will continue to refuse recalls and recruiting new operating people increasingly difficult.

A few months ago, NS lost roughly half a conductor trainee class here in Georgia right at the point they were to be marking up. One of them even quit at his away from home terminal. 

CW

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 8:23 PM

We have a new hire class of 4 in training.  They found those through multiple hiring sessions that totalled about 10 people showing up.

When I hired out, they would have 4 sessions a week, the fifth (last day) was when they brought in those they had chosen to further process them, set up physicals, etc.  Back then and for some years after, they would get about 20 or 30 per session.  That week would produce about 10 or 15 for a class.

I was lucky, I was never furloughed.  Some about 6 months behind me did get furloughed for a short time.  Short furloughs for seasonal conditions isn't unusual for the first few years of employment.  The big, long lasting furloughs really kicked in after the 2008 economic slow down.  After that, even before PSR, they started staffing boards tighter then they had before.  Furloughs would last longer and for some, the time working was less than the time cut off.  That and the yo-yo effect, especially if you had found a good job elsewhere makes it harder for some to come back. 

Then there's how they determine they need more people.  By the time they figure out they DO need people and may have to hire, the reasons (often short term) have plateaued and are starting to subside.  They then hire too many with the last class(es) going straight to furlough upon graduation.  "Congratulations, you're a conductor but you're furloughed.  We'll call you when we need you."  

They always told the truth about the working conditions at the hiring sessions.  Available to work all the time, day or night in all kinds of weather.  No holidays and weekends are just another day of the week.  When I hired out you could be called on your rest to report back 8 hours after you tied up.  That means that you could be called 6 or 6 1/2 hours to be on duty at 8 hours.  They still found people willing to do it.

Now it's harder to find people who will put up all of the adverse parts of the job, no matter what it pays.  I've heard that some of our new hires have had trouble passing some of the written tests.

Beyond finding new people, we're beginning to lose people.  The count is now 5 who are leaving or who have left.  I've worked with a couple that are thinking about going elsewhere. A few are looking at going to another railroad, not necessarily a class one, to keep railroad retirement. 

The railroads created the problems that result in no one wanting to work for them.  They could fix or mitigate those problems, but maybe this fits into their plan for single person crews.  When both sides won't come to agreement and it runs the course to an arbitraitor or Presidential Emergency Board, they'll just plead they have to go to single person crews because they can't hire anyone.

Jeff   

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Posted by Gramp on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 8:37 PM

Sounds like railroad organizations live in the middle ages.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 8:44 PM

Gramp

Sounds like railroad organizations live in the middle ages.

Not quite, they are stuck in the 19th century robber baron mentality.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 9:14 PM

jeffhergert
...

The railroads created the problems that result in no one wanting to work for them.  They could fix or mitigate those problems, but maybe this fits into their plan for single person crews.  When both sides won't come to agreement and it runs the course to an arbitraitor or Presidential Emergency Board, they'll just plead they have to go to single person crews because they can't hire anyone.

Jeff   

Similar to the 'case' being made about the extended unemployment benefits.  People are learning that there is life other than being disrespected in multiple minimum wage jobs to keep some of the bills paid.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 10:38 PM
Yes my lord, may I have more gruel?
 
Back in the early 60’s when I was graduating from college with my degree in Electrical Engineering, I was offered a employment interview with the Pennsylvania RR in Philadelphia. I enjoyed my trip on the Cincinnati Limited and a overnight stay in Philly w/my wife. They offered me a job but I chose to not take it. Partly because I could expect to be relocated every two to four years from one location to another, I was born in Indianapolis, then my dad (working for the Mopac was transferred to Chicago, then Milwaukee, then Cincinnati) in 1947 was told you are being relocated again. And he, having two sons in school, quit so we could have a more stable life. Also, the job paid much less than the jobs he supervised. (Yes, after five to ten years, it would grow to be more) and call outs for unpaid overtime but it was an offer I could decline. I choose to work for a utility which I enjoyed very much. Treated me well. Loved working with union linemen and substation electricians. 
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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 11:03 PM

Electroliner 1935
Yes my lord, may I have more gruel?
 
Back in the early 60’s when I was graduating from college with my degree in Electrical Engineering, I was offered a employment interview with the Pennsylvania RR in Philadelphia. I enjoyed my trip on the Cincinnati Limited and a overnight stay in Philly w/my wife. They offered me a job but I chose to not take it. Partly because I could expect to be relocated every two to four years from one location to another, I was born in Indianapolis, then my dad (working for the Mopac was transferred to Chicago, then Milwaukee, then Cincinnati) in 1947 was told you are being relocated again. And he, having two sons in school, quit so we could have a more stable life. Also, the job paid much less than the jobs he supervised. (Yes, after five to ten years, it would grow to be more) and call outs for unpaid overtime but it was an offer I could decline. I choose to work for a utility which I enjoyed very much. Treated me well. Loved working with union linemen and substation electricians. 

I graduated from college in 1970 afterwards I was 'promoted' from my craft position as a Operator into the B&O's Officer Training Program.  My salary upon 'promotion' was $700/month, which I was TOLD was a 15% increase.  My W2 for 1970 had my total income from the B&O stated as $8900+.  Since 12 times 700 comes in at 8400 - did I get a Increase or a Cut in accepting the 'promotion'.

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Posted by ns145 on Thursday, July 22, 2021 8:47 AM

Yes.  They increased your cut.

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, July 22, 2021 9:46 AM

Railroads have spent the last couple of years making this job unbearable with all their PSR crap and now they can't find employees?  

 

I am so shocked. 

   The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, July 22, 2021 10:23 AM

zugmann

Railroads have spent the last couple of years making this job unbearable with all their PSR crap and now they can't find employees?  

 

I am so shocked. 

 

I don't have a dog in this fight, and can't speak from experience, but all I can say is they made their bed, now they have to sleep in it.

Actions have consequences.  Some people and organizations learn the easy way, some the hard way. Some are brought down by circumstances beyond their control, but others commit suicide.  

Some companies, and not just railroads, never seem to learn that there's a whole big world outside of their well-insulated corporate HQ's with a pretty active "jungle telegraph," and sooner or later the word will get around that "Company X" is a place you just don't want to work for.  Trust me on that one.

I see Mr. Foote says "Throwing money at people these days is not the answer."  Beg to differ, but there's very few jobs people won't do if the money's good enough. The best and most highly motivated people in the private sector don't come cheap and never will.   

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, July 22, 2021 10:28 AM

It's just a precursor for one-man crews.  

 

"But we can't hire enough for 2-person crews"

 

 

   The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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