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February 2023

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

From the Editor: Conventional wisdom in rail country


By Pat Foran, Editor

While rail industry lobbyists have long wish lists for what they’d prefer the new Congress to do (and not do) this session, they’re realistic about what’ll actually happen, as Senior Associate Editor Julie Sneider reports in this month’s cover story. Given the nth-degree partisanship, “the conventional wisdom is that not a lot will get done,” American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker told Sneider. 

Rail execs also hope a thing or two won’t get done on the regulatory front — notably, the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal to require railroads to have at least two crew members in the locomotive cab while operating a train. I’m not sure the time is right for the industry, collectively, to discuss the issue rationally, but conventional wisdom says autonomous technology will continue to permeate our lives and workplaces. 

In the wake of the contentious national labor pact negotiations, and given the recruiting and retention challenges many industries currently face, conventional wisdom also says railroads need to meet a range of workplace culture issues head-on. Meet them as in now. Class I CEOs, I think, get it: “There is no doubt we need to change. … We need to make sure we’re the employer of choice — on the front line and in all areas,” CN President and CEO Tracy Robinson said in November at RailTrends 2022. 

As CSX President and CEO Joe Hinrichs put it during the Class I’s Jan. 25 quarterly earnings call: “… If we’re going to make more progress in the rail industry and then here at CSX, we have to have a better relationship with our union partners and with our workforce out in the field doing the work.” 

Hard work, this. Leaders must live and breathe it. Every day. Not sure what conventional wisdom says about all this, but I believe the CEOs, particularly the new leaders, mean it. And that’s a start. 

UP CIO to deliver virtual summit keynote 

On Feb. 28, Progressive Railroading will host a virtual summit featuring the perspectives of several technology leaders, including the chief information officer of one of North America’s largest freight railroads. 

Rahul Jalali, senior vice president-information technologies and CIO for Union Pacific Railroad, will deliver the summit’s keynote: “Creating Value for Our Customers Drives Our Technological Advances.”  

Since joining the railroad in November 2020, Jalali has served as the Class I’s technology thought leader. Prior to joining UP, he spent 23 years with retail giant Walmart Inc. 

The virtual summit will begin at 11 a.m. EST. The cost to attend is $119. But it’s free for subscribers to RailPrime, our digital subscription offering dedicated to all things freight transportation — and home to the lion’s share of our originally reported coverage.  

For more information about the summit or to register, visit: For more information on RailPrime or to subscribe, visit

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