Borderlands: CanadaNewsRailTrucking

Canadian National cuts earnings outlook on strike hit

Canadian National estimates eight-day disruption will trim C$0.15 per share from profits as CEO assures that recovery plan is “delivering results.”

Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) lowered its earnings guidance based on the impact of the recent eight-day rail strike

CN said on Dec. 3 that it expects adjusted earnings per share (EPS) growth in the low-to-mid single range for 2019. In October, the company had projected a high-single-digit growth on the 2018’s C$5.50 EPS. (A Canadian dollar equals US$0.75.)

CN estimated that the strike by about 3,200 Teamsters members cost C$0.15 per share. The walkout, which ended on Nov. 26, saw CN’s rail network capacity plunge by 90%.

Weekly performance figures, also released on Dec. 3, shows the extent of the strike’s impact. Revenue-ton-miles fell by nearly 36% compared to a year earlier. 

Outbound rail volumes plunged in Toronto during the CN strike – as seen on FreightWaves’ SONAR platform.

At CN’s largest yard, near Toronto, dwell times reached 84.4 hours – compared with 25.3 prior to the strike. Network-wide, performance plummeted to 136 car miles per day – compared to 208 before the strike.

Nevertheless, CEO JJ Ruest said CN’s “recovery plan is delivering results.”

“While we expect to take some time and we remain dependent on favorable weather, we are pleased by how things are progressing,” Ruest said in a statement. “Safety is at the heart of everything we are doing as we bring our Canadian operations back online and we have not experienced any significant setbacks at this point.”

CN already had warned of a slower than expected 2019 after it released third-quarter earnings in October, citing lower rail volumes and a slower economy. Prior to the strike, the CN also announced layoffs, citing the slowdown.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at