Class I Briefs: NS, CN

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
“Congratulations to Conductor Thara Hall and Engineer Courtney Thompson for making history as the first Black female crew in Columbia, South Carolina!” NS reported via social media on March 26. (Photograph Courtesy of NS)

“Congratulations to Conductor Thara Hall and Engineer Courtney Thompson for making history as the first Black female crew in Columbia, South Carolina!” NS reported via social media on March 26. (Photograph Courtesy of NS)

Norfolk Southern (NS) pays tribute its first Black female crew; highlights the “strength” of its Board; and reports on improved safety, productivity and efficiency at its Dillard Yard in Savannah, Ga. Also, CN releases a new Indigenous Relations Policy in support of its commitment to Reconciliation, and earns a 2023 Logistics Partners Award from LP Building Solutions.


NS via social media has recognized Conductor Thara Hall and Engineer Courtney Thompson “for making history as the first Black female crew” in Columbia, S.C. “Their dedication exemplifies the strength and skill of our women railroaders who help to ensure safe, reliable service for our customers every day,” the railroad reported March 26. “As #WomensHistoryMonth comes to a close, let’s continue to honor and celebrate trailblazers like Thara and Courtney who play a leading role in moving America’s economy. Thank you to all who keep us rolling! #TeamNS”

(NS Photograph)

Also on March 26, NS issued the following statement highlighting the “strength” of its Board of Directors and “its track record of thoughtful refreshment”:

“Norfolk Southern’s Board is composed of industry leaders with the specific skills needed to oversee our strategy, drive sustainable value, and hold management accountable. Our Board members have significant, complementary, and diverse expertise, including rail transportation, operations, finance, regulatory and governmental relations, safety, sustainability, cybersecurity, and other relevant skills to continue the board’s effective, independent oversight.

“The Board embraces change and feedback from investors to ensure alignment with shareholders’ best interests. Indeed, the Board has led a thoughtful and comprehensive refreshment process to ensure it is best positioned to hold management accountable and deliver results for shareholders. This includes appointing six new directors in the past five years. The Board most recently nominated Richard Anderson, former CEO of Delta and Amtrak, and Mary Kathryn ‘Heidi’ Heitkamp, former U.S. Senator and rail safety advocate.

“As a result of its ongoing refreshment process, Norfolk Southern has assembled a board comprising leaders who represent the best of their respective industries:

  • “Admiral Philip Davidson (retired four-star Admiral in the U.S. Navy);
  • “Francesca DeBiase (former EVP and Global Chief Supply Chain Officer at McDonald’s Corporation);
  • “Marcela Donadio (former Audit Partner and Americas Oil and Gas Sector Leader at Ernst & Young);
  • “John Huffard Jr. (seasoned technology and cybersecurity executive with more than two decades of experience as Co-founder of Tenable Holdings, Inc.);
  • “Christopher Jones (former Corporate VP and President of the Technology Services Sector of Northrop Grumman Corporation);
  • “Colm Kelleher (Chairman of the Board of UBS Group AG and former President of Morgan Stanley);
  • “Amy Miles, Independent Chair of the Board (former CEO of Regal Entertainment Group);
  • “Claude Mongeau (renowned railroad executive and former CEO of CN);
  • “Jennifer Scanlon (current CEO of UL Solutions Inc., a leading global safety science organization, and former CEO of USG Corporation);
  • “Alan Shaw (Norfolk Southern’s President and CEO responsible for developing and implementing our balanced strategy, and who previously served as EVP and CMO and VP, Intermodal Operations); and
  • “John Thompson (former Senior Executive and Director at multiple customer-facing publicly traded companies, including Best Buy Co., Inc.).”

The railroad urged shareholders to “vote for the entire slate of 13 highly qualified and experienced Norfolk Southern director nominees. Your vote is extremely important, no matter how many shares you own.”

NS Dillard Yard Team (NS Photograph)

Meanwhile, NS reported that the Dillard Yard, part of its Coastal Division, is enhancing communication, productivity and efficiency. Around 100 crew members work at the yard, which serves the Port of Savannah.

Over the past six months, the Class I said Dillard Yard has implemented a series of operational improvements, including:

  • “Achieving significant successes in reducing overtime and enhancing safety throughout the operation by using Six Sigma methodology.”
  • “Improving connection traffic through the realignment of crew members. By condensing connection traffic, teams now traverse less distance to perform switching. These changes have also enhanced safety by reducing the risk of car collisions.”
  • Using a build-sheet process. This “living document” is updated throughout the day with car switching information and inbound and outbound train sizes. “The Performance Excellence group has since deployed this process throughout the Norfolk Southern network, which has improved visibility for outbound trains,” according to NS. The build-sheet process allows the Network Operations Center (NOC), as well as other terminals, “to see estimated train sizes 12-36 hours in advance of the trains being built,” the railroad reported. “This visibility helps the NOC and receiving terminals plan 24-48 hours ahead and better anticipate flow across our network.”

“These improvements ensure that we are putting the right car in the right lane, so it is delivered on time,” NS Terminal Superintendent Christopher Harden said. “Our crew members have a much greater understanding of how their works support the goals of our customers. We want everyone to feel proud of the work they do.” 

In other developments, NS recently announced that it has filed its definitive proxy materials with the Securities and Exchange Commission and that veteran railroad operating officer John Orr has departed Canadian Pacific Kansas City as Executive Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer and joined NS as EVP and COO, effective immediately.


A new Indigenous Relations Policy (see above) was issued March 26 by CN, whose railway was built and continues to be operated across many traditional territories and treaty areas of Indigenous Peoples, as explained in its Acknowledgment released last December.

In the Indigenous Relations Policy, the Canadian Class I said it is “building a foundation that rests on five guiding principles: Cultural Awareness and Employee Engagement; People and Employment; Community Engagement and Relationships; Economic Reconciliation; Environmental Stewardship and Safety.”

“CN is deeply committed to Reconciliation and continuing to work collaboratively alongside Indigenous communities across our network,” CN Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Olivier Chouc said. “This new Indigenous Relations Policy is an opportunity for growth, understanding and positive change. By acknowledging our past and embracing our responsibilities, we are laying a stronger foundation to continue to develop respectful, sustainable, and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous peoples.”

(CN Photograph)

The railroad said it has made it a priority “to strengthen ties, cultivate and develop mutually beneficial relationships, and create economic opportunities as part of its work toward Reconciliation.” CN has a team of managers to lead this work, including Indigenous and regional representation. “This team is engaging proactively with communities to develop and nurture strong and respectful relationships with Indigenous communities across Canada,” according to the railroad, which noted that the team is also working with numerous internal departments as the new policy is implemented.

“This new policy is just one piece of the comprehensive work being undertaken at CN to build strong and meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples,” CN Head of Indigenous Relations Mélanie Allaire said. “We continue to work on developing our first-ever Reconciliation Action Plan. This plan will outline specific and measurable initiatives creating a true benchmark for CN to track its performance and progress. We look forward to sharing our Reconciliation Action Plan later this year.”

Pictured: Julie Lagacé, whose team at CN earned an award from supply chain partner LP Building Solutions. (CN Photograph)

Also, CN’s Industrial Products team in Sales & Marketing has been recognized with the 2023 Logistics Partners Award for the Leadership Principle “Join Forces” from LP Building Solutions, a manufacturer of engineered wood building products. “A big shoutout to Julie Lagacé and her team for your collaborative efforts in finding winning solutions and driving success with our supply chain partner,” the railroad reported in a March 27 LinkedIn post.

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