Watco Issues Inaugural Sustainability Report

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Watco on April 22 released its first sustainability report covering Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives.

Watco is known for our culture and for the specific foundation principles that guide us: Value Our Customers, Value Our People and Safely Improve Every Day,” said Dan Smith, CEO of Watco, a transportation service and logistics company that operates 44 railroads on more than 5,500 miles of track across North America and Australia plus more than 80 ports and terminals across the U.S. and Mexico. “Sustainability efforts are inherently part of our culture and those principles, but we have not formally documented those efforts. An even safer, more well-governed, socially responsible and environmentally conscious Watco benefits our customers, our team members, our company and the communities we serve. This report [download below] demonstrates accountability to our commitment by sharing where we are on our sustainability journey.”

Following are highlights of the “Delivering a Better Tomorrow” report for 2021:

• Watco was awarded Texas Emissions Reduction Plan match funding to help build its first all-electric, zero-emission locomotives. It is partnering with Medha Servo Drives Pvt. Ltd. to convert two switchers to an all-electric propulsion system; they will begin operations in 2022.

• Watco partnered with the American Lung Association to deploy 23 new Hotstart Thermal Management auxiliary power systems on locomotives at the Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad and the Grand Elk Railroad using EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funds.  

• The company more than doubled the size of its Birmingham, Ala.-based Safe Performance Center and boosted the number of employees who can receive on-site training there each day from 40 to 150.

• The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association recognized 29 Watco railroads with performance-based safety awards “for their low rates of reportable injuries.” In addition, the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad reached 1 million person-hours injury free, meaning “160 team members handled over 200,000 railcars across 600 track miles for more than three years without an injury.”

• Watco expanded its recruitment team and revamped its online application process to attract employees. In 2021, 15% of management positions were held by women and 17% by racial/ethnic minorities.

• Charitable giving surpassed $860,000 in 2021.

• More than 90 Team Safety & Improvement Committees “regularly affect safety-related and other changes at Watco.”

 “We are proud of this report and our strong reputation in this industry,” said Laura McNichol, who became Watco’s Chief Sustainability Officer in December 2021 and was named a 2021 Railway Age Women in Rail honoree.

In related developments, Dan Smith was one of 11 North American railroad CEOs to address what must be done to grow and gain market share from competing freight transportation modes as part of a special series in Railway Age’s March 2022 issue.

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