Technology played key role for CSX in 2019

A photograph of a CSX train. There is a line of trees behind the train and alongside the train track.

How CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) integrates technology throughout the company operations is a key metric for how the railroad views its activities over the past year and into present and future years, according to its 2019 environmental, social and governance report.

“Smart use of data and technology is a key pillar of the transformation” between CSX’s 2019 operations and operations of past years, CSX said in its report. “Upgraded and expanded use of data and technology across our business have helped us advance a range of business priorities – including increasing efficiency, optimizing workplace safety, enhancing customer service and achieving environmental gains.”

The company outlined a number of the technological tools it propagated in 2019, including the continued roll out of its Trip Plan Performance tool, which enables customers to see delivery data on their containers and trailers. The tool also tracks and measures CSX’s service performance on a lane-by-lane basis, CSX said.

Other tools aimed at streamlining supply chains and improving delivery efficiency include XGate, a technology used to scan and inspect customers’ containers; the ShipCSX platform, which CSX says allows customers to plan, ship, trace and pay for shipments quickly with secure data that is specific to the customer; and CSX’s membership in TradeLens, a global shipping information platform that uses blockchain technology to access data across the supply chain so that customers can view their shipment status. 

How CSX applied technological tools to its safety practices

The railroad deployed a number of tools in 2019 to enhance its safety operations, including drones and asset monitoring technology.

By the end of 2020, CSX also hopes to be utilizing autonomous track assessment cars to conduct regular track inspections on more than half of CSX’s core mainline tracks. 

Last year, CSX launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) program to enhance federally mandated operational testing and observations, CSX said. CSX deployed 44 drones across the network in 2019 after it completed testing. The benefit of using drones is that they can provide better visual data, which in turn enables CSX to conduct thorough operational testing and more detailed employee training and education, the railroad said. 

CSX also introduced in December 2019 a train inspection portal (TIP) outside of Waycross, Georgia, that can help detect train or railcar problems. The portal takes hundreds of photos of the train at various angles, and algorithms analyze those photos for potential issues. CSX plans to deploy another TIP in 2020, and it is considering adding thermal imaging or heat sensor technology to identify when a component may be in distress.

As the federal deadline to implement positive train control (PTC) technology looms, CSX said it has achieved a number of milestones ahead of the December 31 deadline. In 2019, it achieved 100% operability on designated subdivisions of its network, and it is interoperable with every Class I railroad except Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP). CSX expects to achieve interoperability with CP this summer. 

Interoperability occurs when the controlling locomotives and/or cab cars of any host railroad and tenant railroad operating on the same PTC-equipped main line are able to communicate with and respond to the PTC system, even when trains are moving over property boundaries.

CSX’s PTC technology is also interoperable with other railroads, such as the Belt Railway of Chicago, Metra, Conrail, Amtrak, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail), Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway, KWT Railway and Virginia Railway Express. 

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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