A pair of unrelated statements Friday on freight rail leadership transitions underscore the push and pull of leadership dynamics of the industry.
CSX’s executive vice president of operations to depart
Jamie Boychuk, executive vice president of operations for eastern U.S. Class I rail carrier CSX, is leaving, the company said Friday.
CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) didn’t specify when his last day would be, but the railroad thanked Boychuk for his six years of contributions to the company as well as his role in implementing scheduled railroading.
CSX is searching for Boychuk’s successor both internally and externally. In the meantime, two CSX executives will be helping out and reporting to President and CEO Joe Hinrichs. They are Ricky Johnson, senior vice president of transportation, and Casey Albright, SVP of network operations and service design.
Johnson has over 30 years of industry experience, including 22 years at CSX, and oversees all field operations. Albright has been with CSX for 25 years and seeks to ensure fluid traffic flow across CSX’s network. He also oversees the design of service plans, according to CSX.
“CSX has an experienced operations leadership team that helped guide our operational transformation into a top-performing transportation company, and who will continue to implement and strengthen the scheduled railroading guiding principles that have been the foundation of our success,” Hinrichs said.
“Our seasoned operations leadership team and talented field leaders will remain focused on executing our proven operational plan and drive growth by providing an ever-improving service product to customers. I have the highest confidence in our entire ONE CSX team, which has embraced our culture of working collaboratively to deliver strong safety and service results, positioning us to continue providing enhanced value for our shareholders and other key stakeholders.”
Boychuk’s departure comes after the announcement of another imminent departure — that of outgoing Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) President and CEO Lance Fritz. Jim Vena is slated to become UP’s new CEO on Aug. 14, while Beth Whited, current executive vice president for strategy and sustainability, will become president.
Any speculation that Boychuk could move to UP is probably unfounded because Boychuk may have to sign a lengthy noncompete agreement before leaving CSX, which is standard for the industry, according to a Friday research note from Deutsche Bank transportation analyst Amit Mehrotra. Furthermore, similar leadership changes have occurred in the industry within a year after a new CEO has been appointed, he said, and Hinrichs was appointed last September.
“COO Boychuk is extremely well regarded by the investment community and otherwise, and has led a major transformation of CSX’s operating tempo to what we regard as now being the best in the industry. … The bottom line is we would expect CSX shares to be a bit weak today on the back of this announcement, but we don’t see any lasting impact given CSX’s deep bench of talent and results-driven culture. We could see some strength on UNP shares today, but we think it’s unlikely to see any announcement in this regard given a likely lengthy non-compete agreement” signed prior to leaving CSX, Mehrotra said.
Rail shippers urge Biden to renominate STB’s Oberman and Fuchs
While leadership changes are happening at CSX and UP, rail shippers want leadership at the Surface Transportation Board to remain the same.
The Rail Customer Coalition (RCC) informed FreightWaves on Friday that it sent a letter to President Joe Biden this week asking him to renominate STB Chairman Marty Oberman and STB member Patrick Fuchs because some longstanding proceedings before the board still need to be resolved, including proceedings looking into the implementation of shipper-friendly initiatives, such as reciprocal switching. Shippers have been arguing that reciprocal switching, which is giving access to a competing railroad at an interchange point, could improve rail competition, particularly for captive shippers.
Oberman, Fuchs and other members of the board have also initiated several hearings throughout their tenure to examine the issues related to rail competition, the group said.
“Strong leadership from the STB is needed now more than ever to ensure that the Board addresses freight rail problems in a timely manner and heads them off before they become full-blown crises. A reliable and responsive rail network is necessary for national security and the U.S. economy. We urge you to renominate Chairman Oberman and Board Member Fuchs so the STB can continue to move the country’s freight rail policies forward.”
RCC’s membership consists of dozens of trade associations representing manufacturing, energy and other industries, and the group estimates that its membership provides more than 7 million jobs and more than $4.8 trillion in economic output.
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