Kansas City Southern appoints new leaders, opines on USMCA

A photograph of a train passing through a rail grade crossing.

Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) has made some leadership changes amid the continued deployment of precision scheduled railroading (PSR) and the passage of the trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

KCSM to install new president as current one prepares to retire

Last week, the railroad said Dr. Jose Guillermo Zozaya Delano, president, general manager and executive representative for Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM), will be retiring effective August 1.

Vice president and director general Oscar Augusto Del Cueto Cuevas will assume the role after Zozaya retires.

Zozaya has been with the company since 2006, serving as a senior officer of KCSM for 14 years, KCS said. Prior to KCMS, he served as ExxonMobil Mexico’s legal and government relations director for nine years. 

Outside of KCMS, Zozaya served as president of the Mexican Railway Association and president of the binational board of directors for the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, among many other professional and civic associations, His career has spanned nearly 50 years in government relations, legal affairs and international affairs, and mergers and acquisitions. 

“Words cannot adequately describe Dr. Zozaya’s contribution to KCSM over these past 14 years,” said KCS president and chief executive officer Patrick J. Ottensmeyer. “His leadership has positioned KCSM as a substantial and influential force in the economy and in the social fabric throughout our network in Mexico. We are very fortunate to have had Jose lead us through many changes and challenges over the years, and we are delighted that he will be available as an advisor to Oscar Del Cueto as we work through this important transition.”

Del Cueto, KCSM’s incoming president, has nearly 30 years of rail industry experience, serving in roles related to institutional relations, communications, operations, planning and logistics. He joined KCSM predecessor TFM in 1997.

He serves as a member of the board of directors for Ferrovalle and a member of the Mexican Council of Foreign Trade of the Northeast. He was also president of the Operations and Safety Committee of the Mexican Association of Railroads for six years.

“Oscar has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in his more than 20 years at KCSM and its predecessor TFM,” Ottensmeyer said. “Arguably, Oscar has been preparing for this job for many years as he has pursued a path with many different experiences. His deep understanding of our rail network, operations, customers and the communities we serve will serve the company well as we make this very important transition in the leadership of KCSM.”

KCS makes leadership changes “in support” of PSR

The railroad also announced last week that it made several organizational changes designed to support KCS’ PSR efforts. These changes became effective July 1.

Mike Walczak will lead service design, car management, fuel management and treasury and tax in a newly created role aimed at furthering the execution of the railroad’s PSR strategy. Walczak will report to Chief Financial Officer Mike Upchurch. Walczak was most recently vice president of mechanical operations.

David Selby will lead KCS’ mechanical organization as KCS “right-sizes its equipment fleet, increases staff productivity, minimizes failures and train delays and invests in new technologies to improve the reliability of company assets,” the railroad announced. Selby previously served as vice president of intermodal and automotive operations. 

Olivia Daily, who has served as assistant vice president of service design, will take the role of vice president of purchasing. She will replace Bill Blaise, the current vice president, who will be retiring effective September 1. Blaise, who has been with KCS since 2007, will assist in the transition. 

“Kansas City Southern is focused on providing consistent and reliable service, building a more resilient and dependable network, facilitating industry-leading growth, and continuing to improve asset utilization and our cost structure,” Ottensmeyer said. “These organizational changes will help us build on the significant train and crew efficiency gains made during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

KCS CEO urges more coordinated policy efforts with Mexico and Canada

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) for trade, Ottensmeyer urged better coordination in policy between the U.S., Canada and Mexico in a July 1 op-ed in the Dallas Morning News.

KCS has been eyeing opportunities in Mexico that have opened up as a result of the country’s 2013 energy reform. Mexico is also a key partner in the supply chain for automobiles, grain and intermodal. 

“There are certainly challenges to capitalizing on this opportunity and realizing the maximum benefits for the U.S. and North America. Speaking more specifically on issues relating to the U.S. and Mexico, with which I am more deeply involved, the lack of coordination on health guidelines in response to the pandemic caused existing, well-established North American supply chains to struggle. As our economies began to reopen, many businesses were unable to bring employees back to work because they were not deemed ‘essential’ by governing authorities,” Ottensmeyer said.

He continued, “In order to completely capitalize on this new North American moment and realize the full benefits afforded by USMCA, government leaders should commit to establishing a framework that will facilitate better coordination of issues and policies on an ongoing basis. Ideally, such a framework would also include private sector leadership so that, unlike NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was the predecessor of USMCA], there is dynamic exchange of ideas and alignment of policies to keep USMCA current and relevant as economies, technologies and societies evolve in ways that we cannot even imagine today. Again, unlike NAFTA, USMCA includes a sunset provision that requires that it be refreshed and renewed in the future.”

The full editorial is available here.

KCS will report its second-quarter financial results on July 17.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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