Alan Shaw to NS Employees: ‘Service is the Only Product We Sell’

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw

May 1 was Alan Shaw’s first day as President and CEO of Norfolk Southern. Shaw, a Railway Age Readers’ 2022 Influential Leader, spent the day at Debutts Yard in Chattanooga, Tenn., with employees. On May 2, he sent an open letter to all NS employees, and according to NS “will be traveling to key parts of the network, including visiting a maintenance-of way-crew in Ashtabula, Ohio, our Elkhart Yard in Indiana, and our operations in Roanoke, Va. We reproduce the letter in its entirety:

To my Norfolk Southern colleagues: 

Today I’m humbled by the opportunity to lead this tremendous team of railroaders and a company with a rich history, a noble purpose, and a bright future. As I begin my service as chief executive of Norfolk Southern, I’d like to share a few thoughts. 

Service restoration is our top priority 

Our industry still feels the effects of the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions. My first priority, and the top priority of every member of the Norfolk Southern team, is to restore service to the quality our customers expect and deserve. We have a great team and we’re taking the right steps: accelerating our new TOP|SPG operating plan and hiring the conductors we need to execute the plan reliably. 

Customer-centric and operations-driven 

Moving forward, our relentless focus on customer service will endure. We’ll compete and win in the $800 billion truck and logistics market by being customer-centric and operations-driven. 

Customer-centric means recognizing customers’ expectations are shaped by their experience with service-oriented companies like Amazon and UPS. It means making it easier for customers to do business with us and delivering innovative solutions to help them compete and grow. Operations-driven means our success depends entirely on our ability to run a safe, reliable, and resilient railroad; every department at Norfolk Southern needs to be aligned with Operations as we serve our customers. Service is the only product we manufacture and the only product we sell. 

Service, productivity, and growth 

Our customers and business partners constantly look for opportunities to be more productive and efficient, and they expect that from us as well. There are two ways to improve and maintain our operating ratio – control costs and grow revenue. We’ll do both. 

Industry-leading initiatives in sustainability and technology 

As our customers reduce their environmental footprint, Norfolk Southern can be part of the solution. Shifting their business from truck to rail is one of the most powerful ways to reduce carbon emissions. Every time a customer chooses rail over truck, they lower emissions, ease congestion, and reduce wear on our nation’s publicly funded highway system. 

Our investments in data science, machine vision, and other advanced technologies are making us more efficient and resilient, and our new headquarters in Atlanta gives us even more access to top tech talent. We’re going to lead the industry in these areas. 

The best team in the industry 

All of you make a choice every day to be Norfolk Southern railroaders. I’ll never take that for granted. Together we’ll make sure this is always a place where all of us feel included and valued, and where the safety of our people always comes first. 

I’ve spent the past 28 years traveling our network, talking with our people, asking questions, and learning. I’ve seen your skill and dedication and felt the pride in the essential role Norfolk Southern plays serving customers and moving America’s economy. I know we’ll succeed because of our powerful network, best-in-class portfolio of customers, and exceptional and dedicated team. 

Thank you for everything you do for Norfolk Southern and our customers. Together there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

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