Service crew

Waste shippers complain about CSX service in the North East

In a webcam view, empty gondolas carrying scrap metal and demolition debris are parked on the CSX Transportation main line in Westfield, Mass., on September 6. The cars consist of Selkirk, NY-West Springfield, Mass., freight train M424. The train has frequently stood still for days at Westfield, 7 miles from its destination, in recent weeks. Some of the cars are bound for the Connecticut Southern Short Line. The Genesee & Wyoming short line interchange train has left West Springfield Yard with light engines a few times in recent weeks due to the backlog of traffic on CSX. (Screenshot from YouTube/BostonandMaineLive)

WASHINGTON — Waste shippers have complained to federal regulators about deteriorating service on CSX Transportation in the Northeast.

The National Waste & Recycling Association, a trade group representing 70% of the private sector waste and recycling market, told the Surface Transportation Board that its members prefer to find business solutions with their rail carriers.

“However, the service issues raised by our member companies indicate that this is a network issue affecting the entire northeast region of the country. For example, in Boston, NWRA members cannot load cars due to ongoing service issues with car delivery. In the meantime, wagons loaded with waste are waiting to be evacuated by the railway. Another example, in Connecticut and New York, rail operations are being negatively impacted due to the excessive backlog of cars awaiting switching at CSX’s Selkirk Yard in Albany, NY,” wrote Group CEO Darrell K. Smith, in a September 1st. letter to the STB.

Other waste and recycling shippers face missed switches, longer transit times, unfilled car orders and an inability to reach CSX customer service and operations employees, Smith says. .

“All of these issues are serious service failures and the situation is becoming more precarious every day,” Smith wrote. He asked the STB to intervene.

CSX has experienced train crew shortages in the Northeast and especially along the old Water Level Route in New York. In a system advisory released Tuesday, September 6, CSX informed engineers and other employees that no personal days off will be allowed in Selkirk, Syracuse and Buffalo, NY, from September 9-19.

“CSX is in contact with the NWRA regarding the concerns expressed in their letter to the STB and had a productive call with them last week to hear about specific issues and share what we are doing to address the challenges and provide improved service” , spokeswoman Cindy told Schild.

“Crew shortages have been at the root of service issues in some areas of CSX’s network, including Selkirk where we have seen an unusual increase in paid vacations,” she adds. “The staffing shortage in Selkirk should ease now that the Labor Day weekend is over; however, we have taken the initiative to send a number of temporary relocations to provide additional support which has improved the situation there. CSX has also changed the way waste traffic is blocked to improve service for shippers in Selkirk.

The railway expects the changes to improve service through Selkirk later this month.

Crewless CSX Transportation freight train M424, which runs from Selkirk, NY, to West Springfield, Mass., sits on track 2 in Westfield, Mass., 7 miles from its destination, August 22, 2022. The train was among a handful of M424s will be parked on the main line for several days in August and early September amid crew shortages. (Bill Stephens)

CSX said it was continuing to hire and sending temporary transfers to Selkirk to participate, including 10 train and engine crews that arrived last week and 10 more expected to arrive this week. The railway says seven newly hired conductors are undergoing training at Selkirk, three others are undergoing classroom training and 17 more are expected to start conducting conductor courses soon.

Union officials and CSX staff say train crews are continuing to quit at Selkirk, however, with several leaving this month.

The average time spent by freight cars in Selkirk has increased by 58% over the past five weeks. Terminal dwell in Selkirk rose from 32.6 hours at the end of July to 51.6 hours during the week ending August 26, according to the latest data CSX reported to the STB. The average stay in the humpback yard was 47.65 hours in August, compared to 21.6 hours in August 2021.

A combination of layoffs, crew shortages, changes to remote switching duties and CSX’s takeover of New England Pan Am Regional Railways has created congestion in Selkirk, the president wrote SMART-TD local Joshua Therrien in an Aug. 22 letter to STB President Martin. J.Oberman.

CSX reduced remote control switching tasks from two-person teams to one person on August 9. “Since then, Selkirk employees have been harassed, bullied and bullied into doing more work with half the team,” he wrote.

But Jamie Boychuk, CSX’s executive vice president of operations, told Oberman in a Sept. 1 letter that the remote switch operation complied with Federal Railroad Administration regulations and standard industry practices, including included in other CSX projects.

“I want to emphasize the importance of employee safety and regulatory compliance. CSX takes allegations of harassment and bullying very seriously, and we do not tolerate any retaliatory behavior,” Boychuk wrote. “Employees are encouraged to report such behavior and have many ways to do so, including anonymously. But when it comes to the new RCO switching procedures, CSX hasn’t increased working hours beyond the allowed limits.

“I personally visited the Selkirk yard for three days this week,” Boychuk wrote. “I walked the ballast line with employees, reviewed switching processes and talked about operations with union and non-union employees. It was a great interaction with our employees and I’m proud of how they rose to the occasion. Everyone is working together to speed up the recovery process and I want to assure the Board of Directors that we have the right plan in place to achieve this. »

One-person remote operations should help increase crew availability and improve service, Boychuk wrote.