CSX, Boychuk End Six-Year Relationship

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Jamie Boychuk in the inspection car of the CSX executive train, March 2023. William C. Vantuono photo

For reasons unexplained, CSX on Aug. 4 said that Executive Vice President Operations Jamie Boychuk “is leaving the company” after six years.

“President and CEO Joe Hinrichs thanked Boychuk for his role in the implementation of scheduled railroading and cited the company’s depth of operational experience that will ensure continuity while CSX searches for a successor,” CSX said in making the announcement.

Ricky Johnson, Senior Vice President Transportation, and Casey Albright, Senior Vice President Network Operations and Service Design, will report directly to President and CEO Joe Hinrichs as CSX “conducts an internal and external search prior to naming a new head of all operations functions,” the railroad said. Johnson, who oversees all field operations, has more than 30 years of experience in the railroad industry, including 22 years at CSX. Albright has 25 years at CSX in various leadership roles. In his current position, he ”oversees fluid traffic flow across the CSX network, leading the design of service plans that support performance improvement and meet customer needs.”

“On behalf of CSX and all our stakeholders, I would like to thank Jamie for his six years of service and contributions to our company, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” Hinrichs said. “CSX has an experienced operations leadership team that helped guide our operational transformation into a top-performing transportation company, and who will continue to implement and strengthen the scheduled railroading guiding principles that have been the foundation of our success. Our seasoned operations leadership team and talented field leaders will remain focused on executing our proven operational plan and drive growth by providing an ever-improving service product to customers. I have the highest confidence in our entire ONE CSX team, which has embraced our culture of working collaboratively to deliver strong safety and service results, positioning us to continue providing enhanced value for our shareholders and other key stakeholders.”

CSX declined to comment or provide any details on Boychuk’s departure. He reportedly has been provided a generous severance package.

Boychuk, 45, has served three CSX chief executives: Hunter Harrison (who brought him to CSX in 2017 as Assistant Vice President of Transportation Support), Jim Foote, and Hinrichs, who came to CSX from Ford Motor Company in 2022. Boychuk and the operations team he led are widely credited with repairing and refining, under Foote, CSX‘s PSR (Precision Scheduled Railroading) business model, which Harrison had rushed to implement when he came to CSX in early 2017 (Harrison died in December of that year). CSX no longer uses the PSR acronym, instead referring to it as “scheduled railroading.” The reason behind this, an industry observer told Railway Age, is its negative connotation: “Labor, shippers and politicians blame everything that’s caused problems in the industry on PSR. So many ornaments have been hung on the PSR Christmas tree that it has toppled over.”

Boychuk and Hinrichs are credited with breaking new ground by leading the effort to forge paid sick leave agreements with CSX unionized employees following 2022’s contentious national bargaining, which required a Presidential Emergency Board to resolve. Since then every Class I has implemented paid sick leave. CSX currently is the best-performing railroad in terms of service quality, as measured by the STB—so much so that it has been released from some of the draconian performance metrics reporting requirements the Board imposed in May 2022. As of July 28, CSX was the only Class I designated as “Running Well/Fast,” with year-to date system velocity up 20.6% and terminal dwell time down 19.5%, by analyst Rick Paterson of Loop Capital Markets. Boychuk is leading the STB industry committee charged with writing revised service standards and metrics.

Two charts courtesy Loop Capital/Rick Paterson

Following Boychuk’s departure, Loop Capital’s Paterson commented, “Class I rail networks are extraordinarily difficult beasts to wrangle to run well, and across the transportation universe (all modes) the Class I COO role is, in our view, the single-most difficult job. In North America there are only a handful of people that have produced significant success in the role in recent years, and Jamie Boychuk is on that list; specifically between January 2019 through June 2020, and from September 2022 through the present, when CSX’s operations and service were strong on his watch. If you’re a rail CEO you therefore need to think long and hard before you push one of these people out the door, whatever their imperfections. Time and again we’ve seen major railroads relegated to years of service mediocrity and instability because they didn’t have the right person in this role. We hope CSX knows what it’s doing.”

Prior to his most recent role at CSX, Boychuk served as Senior Vice President of Network, Engineering, Mechanical and Intermodal Operations. Before that, he was Vice President of Scheduled Railroading Implementation. “Throughout his time at CSX, Boychuk has identified efficiency opportunities, implemented significant operational changes, driven the implementation of trip plans, and delivered improvements in network fluidity,” according to his CSX biography. Prior to joining CSX, Boychuk spent 20 years at CN. He served as a General Manager of the Alberta and Prairie sub-regions. He began his career at CN as a conductor, yardmaster and locomotive engineer, and was promoted to managerial positions of increased responsibility in Western Canada, Eastern Canada and the U.S.

Editor’s Comment: Jamie Boychuk is now a free agent—and what a free agent to have available! If you are looking for an experienced railroader who started as an operating employee and came up through the ranks, he’s only a phone call away.

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