Freight rail and partners outline coronavirus responses

A photograph of a locomotive. There are trees behind it.

Freight rail and intermodal companies have been developing plans to ensure that business operations continue as near to normal as possible as the coronavirus pandemic plays out in North America.  

Kansas City Southern

Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) says the U.S.-Mexico border remains open to the commercial movement of goods and railroads are deemed critical infrastructure by the federal government. However, the railroad has had to adjust some trip plans and transportation schedules to align with customer demand.

Policies for remote work and social distancing have been instituted for applicable employees, and the company has implemented a “robust” cleaning and sanitizing effort for all work and common areas, Kansas City Southern (KCS) said in a March 25 customer notice.

As for ensuring the continuity of business operations, KCS said it holds daily briefings both internally and with local, state and federal agencies. It is also working with its vendors and partners to ensure the availability of or materials and resources. KCS has also diversified its work locations temporarily, including its network operations offices.

KCS has the ability to temporarily relocate crew and employees to locations of need, and they have job boards for train field employees in the event of crew shortages.

Additional information on how KCS is addressing the pandemic can be found here.


CSX (NYSE: CSX) has no confirmed cases of any employee who has contracted the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of the start of this week, according to a March 24 customer notice from Mark Wallace, CSX executive vice president of sales and marketing. 

CSX urged customers to inform the railroad if their transportation needs changes or require service adjustments. The railroad is “taking comprehensive measures to safeguard our workers and our facilities so that we can continue to provide normal operations and timely service,” Wallace said.

CSX has also developed business continuity plans that include backup facilities where business-critical functions, such as CSX’s data center and network operations teams, are able to transition and continue seamless train operation, Wallace said in a March 18 customer note.  To ensure crew availability, CSX has reserve operating employees and manager certifications available, and the railroad has established safety protocols for facility sterilization. CSX has also conducted work-from-home drills for its technology teams and other functions that support customer relations, Wallace said. 

Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) has been surveying customers to gauge their transportation requirements in light of the coronavirus pandemic and state and local orders to shelter in place.

“Norfolk Southern is working to integrate your feedback into our transportation plans, ensuring we continue to meet your needs and our operations remain fluid. As changes are identified to our service, we will notify affected customers and work with you to resolve any issues. We will work collaboratively with our customers and business partners,” Norfolk Southern Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said in a March 23 customer notice.

“We understand that COVID-19 mitigation efforts are dynamic and the effect on our customers’ business needs may evolve. Norfolk Southern will continue to collaborate with our customers and business partners to assess your service needs and how best to respond to the potential changes in your logistics requirements,” Shaw said.

Trac Intermodal

Trac Intermodal, a marine chassis pool manager and equipment provider, says it has business continuity plans in place and it is following health guidance to clean and disinfect service vehicles and TRAC’s locations. The company’s field operations have been deemed as essential, meaning that operations can continue in areas where there are state orders to shelter in place.

“We continue to work closely with our network of start/stop locations and depots to support the intermodal community,” TRAC Intermodal said.

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association has a list of resources for short line railroads that detail recent government actions, including what temporary waivers from federal mandates are available.