Ask The Experts: July 10, 2019

Tony Hatch
Independent Transportation Analyst and Consultant

Q: In your opinion, which recent Class I hiring decisions have been notable?
There were two major hiring announcements from Class Ones, both of whom started their rail careers at the ATSF (thanks to the only SP-foamer in the industry for pointing that out), the SF of the BNSF, and both of which produce interesting mysteries as well as deep implications and interesting ramifications:

  1. I didn’t see that coming! Canadian National announced the retirement of COO Mike Cory as of July 1 – and his replacement….by an American (Rob Reilly)….whose entire career has been at the only Class One railway (that very same BNSF) not espousing PSR!! Let that sink in for a moment – just as every US-based PSR railroad (CSX, UNP, NSC, KSU) has gone “big-game hunting” for a Canadian railroader (or at least one with CN or CP experience), the PSR Mother-ship, CN, goes and finds someone without direct PSR experience nor a predilection for Tim Hortons. I hear only good things so far about Reilly. This is clearly a sign of a culture change in the PHR world. We will all miss Mike Cory, as well, who will be around to transition Rob for a while.

  2. Double Down! CSX announced that Farrukh Bezar will be their new EVP & Chief Strategy Officer. I have known Farrukh for a while, and I hope I am not prejudicing anyone by revealing that he is a New Yorker and a die-hard Mets fan. After railroading he was a consultant for some time; this announcement comes as a surprise to me in part because only March 6, CSX— as part of a restructuring of the marketing department— announced that Kevin Boone was moving from IR to VP Marketing & Strategy….This also seems similar to when NS, having the estimable Mike McClellan as Strategist, also in March announced the election of John Scheib as EVP and Chief Strategy Officer. Apparently the situation is working well at NSC.

Q: What are your thoughts on Rob Reilley moving from BNSF to CN?
Of the CN move to grab Rob Reilley from the BNSF, a former CTO there, the estimable Dave Dealy, had this to say:

“Rob spent most of his BNSF career in either intermodal operations LA or Chicago or as Regional VP of the Santa Fe Transcon (Chicago to California.  He is a very intelligent, critical thinking leader, well respected by those who work for him.  The transcon operation demanded precise execution of the service sensitive intermodal trains (UPS, FEDEX, JBH Premium and LTL) as well as the high volume steamship double-stack network. Over the past two years in my conversations with Mike Corey and JJ, they have had difficulty in handling the intermodal growth out of Prince Rupert.  Rob is a “sweat the assets” guy, and learned well from yours truly.  He will NOT do anything to degrade the PSR mentality at CN.  I believe that he is the right guy at the right time.  Big question is why did BNSF let him go?  Matt Rose had strict instructions to his PEERS, keep your hands off my people….Carl does not have that same relationship with his peers.  BNSF will miss Rob.”

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Alison Babcock