As governors are laying out their plans to restart the economy and have begun a phased re-opening in their states, freight railroads will be an essential partner in the effort to revitalize the nation and put businesses back to work.
As businesses slowly ramp up, railroads will provide the necessary freight transportation that brings raw materials to factories and finished products to market.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing daily life on a global scale, but railroads are still supplying uninterrupted service to move the raw materials and finished goods they have always moved 24/7 across the country. As part of their business continuity plans, some railroads are temporarily relocating crews and employees to locations of need, adjusting trip plans and transportation schedules, repositioning equipment and transitioning to backup facilities to continue business-critical operations. One of their main goals is to be ready for the pivot to recovery.
CSX, for example, has put in place robust business continuity plans to minimize potential operational impact, preparing the company well for the recovery period. “Our continuity plans include backup facilities where business-critical functions are able to quickly transition and continue seamless train operations,” the company recently said.
“CSX plays a critical role in supporting the U.S. economy during this time of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, efficient and reliable rail service is essential to keeping supply chains fluid as the nation responds to this challenge,” it added.
That reliability of the freight rail industry writ large is on display during the pandemic — and it most certainly will be front and center as the nation enters the recovery phase, a process that could take months. Recent polling of business leaders around the country found that 31% believe their businesses will require between three and six months to get back on track. Another 32% believe it could require as much as three months before operations return to some version of normal. Some 20% believe that recovery will require up to a year once the pandemic recedes.
As the economy stirs back to life, freight railroads will play their vital role serving customers large and small and that cut across almost all industrial sectors. That is a key point that Norfolk Southern underscores. The railroad says its customers “are the drivers of every aspect of the American economy. From power to our homes, to chicken soup to cleaning supplies. More than ever, our customers and our country need us to deliver.”
Kansas City Southern also recognizes the impact railroads have on the overall economy, noting that railroads “play a very important role in keeping supply chains flowing and keeping people in jobs. Our purpose, among other things, is to make a meaningful contribution to the economic growth and prosperity of the nations and communities we serve.”
With recovery on the horizon, Canadian National stresses that its intermodal service — containers shipped by both rail and truck — “is moving key consumer goods to restock empty store shelves and our temperature-controlled service is playing an important role in the food and beverage sector. We are ready to ramp up our capacity as required to alleviate the pressure on long-haul truck drivers.”
In the throes of the pandemic, railroads work with their customers to create transportation solutions that serve the nation and move critical supplies while preparing for the inevitable recovery. During the recovery phase, America’s freight railroads’ steadfast commitment will remain clear as they transport what the country needs to return to normal, including:
- Agricultural and food products
- Chemicals for cleaning water and fertilizer for farms
- Coal for power generation
- Intermodal containers that transport a huge variety of consumer goods
- Construction materials including steel and lumber for housing
- Motor vehicles and vehicle parts