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Intermodal Summit: Precision scheduled railroading ‘all about doing more with less’

PSR puts profits over service, Nevada BLET chairman says

This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ Intermodal Summit.

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: How has precision scheduling railroading (PSR) affected service levels over the past decade? 

DETAILS: Matt Parker, a legislative chairman with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) in Nevada, discusses with FreightWaves’ Kevin Hill why precision scheduled railroading (PSR) isn’t about precision, but about profit.

SPEAKER: Matt Parker, chairman of the Nevada State Legislative Board for the BLET

BIO: Parker has worked as a train engineer and conductor since 2004. He also focuses on issues concerning safety, sanitation and political education in his position as chairman for state legislative issues for the BLET in Nevada. Besides informing its members, his board works with elected officials to educate them about issues affecting the rail industry.

KEY QUOTES FROM PARKER:

About PSR: “I am concerned about what I see with regard to the state of rail because I just do not see a focus on service that I believe needs to be out there with this precision scheduled railroading the railroads have gone to. What everybody needs to understand is it has nothing to do with either precision or scheduling. It’s all about doing more with less, which has produced some great financial results for the carriers. But we’ve seen a tremendous degradation in service out here.” 

About persuading businesses to switch to rail: “Everybody’s talking about rail being the green alternative as we look at climate initiatives, addressing climate change and such moving more of that freight to rail because it’s more fuel-efficient because it generates less emissions. But, in order to encourage that business to come to rail, in order to keep that business there, there needs to be a reasonable level of service that I’m just concerned with.”

About PSR inefficiencies: “An example of this: We used to have a number of trains coming through Nevada, from the Midwest, to the West Coast. What we see now is a lot of that has been combined into one big giant train. We still have segments of the railroad that are single-track segments, and they do not have sidings of the length that can accommodate the train. So it’s not uncommon at all to see this train being held in Utah for seven hours or more, because it’s got another train of the same length going the other way. And obviously, if you have a 180-or-more-mile segment of single track main line with sightings that you can’t meet the two trains, somebody’s got to wait on one end for the other train. And again, how is that providing a degree of service that’s going to encourage new business to come onto rail and to keep that business on the rail?”

About railroad M&A’s: “What we’ve seen over the last 30 years or so is that [mergers and acquisitions] have not produced favorable results for the shippers, the customers, the public depending on freight getting moved or the manufacturers that need those materials.”

One Comment

  1. Correct this article, it’s not called “sightings” they are called “sidings” used for passing trains in single track territories.

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and Trucks.com. If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to chawes@freightwaves.com.