Rail transport service update: Norfolk Southern & BNSF

As the fallout from COVID-19 continues to dominate the transportation landscape, CLX Logistics remains focused on the health and well being of our employees while maintaining full operational support to our customers. Our employees continue to operate from home with a limited number of employees voluntarily working in the office now that Southeastern Pennsylvania has moved to a yellow phase. Utilizing our technological capabilities and state-of-the-art systems we continue to be able to focus all of our attention on monitoring supply chains and effectively keeping all shipments moving as needed.

As detailed last month, our Rail Fleet Management and Operations department in the Global Transport division has continued to find success in the new work environment. With rail transportation volumes remaining steady in comparison to other modes of transportation, we have seen little change in how we operate.

We remain in constant contact with customers and railroads to stay up to date on the latest information available and sharing it with you here. Today’s entry covers updates for two more large rail operators in North America: Norfolk Southern and BNSF.

Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) initiated their Pandemic Planning Task Force on March 11th. This plan includes representation from all departments to review internal work group contingencies. As a result they transitioned to a work-from-home environment on March 14th in order to comply with CDC guidelines on social distancing. By the third week of March they implemented additional proactive distancing measures such as:

  • They instructed approximately 1,700 NS contract service providers to remain off NS property in instances of
    1. a contract employee who returned within the last 14 days from a country placed under a State Department travel advisory
    2. a contract employee who has been in close contact with or cared for someone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days; or
    3. a contract employee who experienced cold or flu-like symptoms within the last 14 days or has instead been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Any area suspected of contamination will be evacuated and disinfected, and any employee in the area who may have been infected must to self-isolate.

Since those measures went into effect, NS has touted their increased agility and enhanced efficiency as a result of their changes. NS simplified their operations by routing shipments more directly toward their destination, with fewer handlings and classifications along the way. They are also in the process of reviewing individual yards to enable more efficient operations – with their first major enhancement involving the Linwood yard in North Carolina in May and a similar review of Bellevue yard in northern Ohio which will result in a series of service modifications later this month.

BNSF

In response to COVID-19, BNSF followed the guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health agencies.

Understanding the vital role in supporting the nation’s economy and delivery of essential goods BNSF stated that they were required to take additional actions to protect the health of their employees and ensure operations as safely as possible.

To minimize the risk of transmission to those employees who cannot perform their work remotely, BNSF took a phased approach to welcome back employees who have been working from home. This phased approach will continue until all employees may return.

The timing of each phase is dependent upon many factors, including local COVID-19 risk levels with the highest priority remaining the safety of employees while protecting essential operations. They continue to limit visitors to our corporate headquarters and other major facilities as well as restrict employee travel.

All BNSF facilities remain open with additional safety protocols in place. Among the procedures and actions to mitigate the exposure risks to COVID-19, BNSF has provided more than 250,000 face masks to operations personnel for use in situations where social distancing is not feasible.

BNSF also advises that they have sufficient surge capacity of locomotives and railcars ready to deploy in response to a rapid uptick in freight volume.

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