Yes, the freight railroads need to improve their technology. But the reason isn’t because of COVID-19.
The railroads fundamentally provide a hook and haul train service. They don’t play a big retail or e-commerce service role as the movement organizer of the last-mile delivery party.
What they should be doing to improve the transparency and the locational tracking of the products in their trains is to provide better train to beneficial cargo customer movement and ETA of final placement of each customers’ inventory — while that inventory is in motion.
They need to integrate better the railroad operational movement databases directly into the delivery customers’ TMS (traffic management data systems).
That’s not a COVID-19 necessity. Instead, it is a business growth and market share growth necessity.
As for specific COVID-19 “systems” enhancements, there is an opportunity to write and distribute more phone-like applications that electronically substitute carload or intermodal equipment check-in and check-out local terminal operations AND THUS reduce paperwork “hardcopy” handling at face to face distances. There are numerous software phone-like trucker applications that could be purchased and then modified by a railroad company to make this quickly happen. Each railroad need not invent its own IT product.