How CSX Used Location Technology to Mitigate Field Risks and Reduce Costs

By Joyce Tam

CSX Corporation is a leader in freight rail transportation, providing clients with traditional rail service and intermodal containers and trailers, operating over 23,000 route miles of track in 23 states. Its roots date back to 1827 when the nation’s first common-carrier railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, was chartered.

As the company evolved, it maintained its goal of operating a safe and reliable railroad. This included running a fleet of approximately 6,500 vehicles, which support rail operations and maintenance teams that servicesignals, provide construction and maintain equipment.

To increase the fleet’s efficiency and productivity, control fuel costs and maintain safety, CSX decided to replace a paper-based system with GPS-based location technology. The company wanted a cloud computing platform that monitored vehicle and driver activity to optimize scheduling.

Safe, Reliable Operations

Before turning to fleet management, CSX used log books and work orders for monitoring and scheduling its mobile operations. Now the company uses location technology to keep track of vehicles, regulate driver behavior and optimize routing. Fleet management is also essential to vehicle maintenance schedules and workload optimization.

CSX has also cut travel by allowing drivers to start their work shifts from home when the job site is closer to their residence than the office. The reduced travel has resulted in a 30% decrease in fuel costs.

Taking Care of the Environment                                                        

CSX is committed to environmental stewardship, as well, and has invested $1.5 billion in reducing carbon emissions.  One of the many ways in whichfleet management helps CSX to meet these commitments is by monitoring excess idling. “If a technician is using a boom truck and leaves the engine running, we know what time the boom was engaged and if the boom is still up,” explained Dan Sabo, a business consultant at CSX. “When we initially tested this, drivers were turning on the trucks to get warm in cool weather and running the air-conditioner in warm weather.  We now monitor this type of usage and provide employees options to idling when heat or AC is required.  We know which trucks are idling and can coach drivers to turn off the engine when the boom isn’t engaged.” 

Fleet management also helps dispatchers determine which technician should respond to a crisis. “It’s easy for us to find the closest vehicle to a job and make assignments based on real-time schedule status,” Sabo said.

Safety as a Priority

CSX takes safety seriously, aiming for zero incidents, so it purchased a driver safety solution which is integrated to the fleet management solution. This allows managers to track and correct driver behaviors. Drivers who exceed pre-set speed thresholds are reported in real time to a manager who follows up with tips for better driving.

In addition, complaints from callers who use “How’s my driving?” phone numbers displayed on vehicles can be verified with location data. Matching a claim to a location helps determine the legitimacy of a complaint.

Sabo added that although drivers initially resisted fleet management, they now embrace it. They appreciate GPS navigation to get to remote locations, and vehicle monitoring provides a sense of security should they need assistance. “One time, a driver didn’t check in for hours. Using fleet management, we were able to locate his truck, where we found him unconscious.”

In fact, the fleet management and driver safety solutions have proven so successful that CSX is working with fleet management engineers at Trimble (the vendor) on an advanced sensor that will alert the back-office in real time when reverse is engaged.

“We don’t want 10,000 pounds of vehicle backing up,” Sabo said. “That is a high statistical risk situation where accidents are likely to occur.” The new sensor would generate an exception report whenever a driver uses reverse and the manager would determine if it was necessary.  This helps to identify situations where backing up can be avoided.

Future Initiatives

CSX is also working on implementing a fuel-tax report that could save the company more than half a million dollars a year. CSX vehicles regularly cross state borders, where fuel taxes vary.  “If we buy gas in one state but work in another state, the government could impose a fine or adjustment to pay the correct tax,” Sabo explained.

CSX is looking to the reporting feature to not only identify where fuel is purchased, but also take advantage of the fuel tax exception for off-road use. CSX will use the reporting to verify where and how much fuel is consumed so it can file for rebates and more accurately forecast state fuel tax. Companies are exempt from paying some federal and state fuel tax when the vehicle is operating on company property and off public roads and/or using fuel to operate equipment while parked. This aspect of fleet management will allow CSX to build and generate reports around information, which will be sent to CSX tax and legal departments to file with the Department of Transportation. 

The bottom line for CSX after implementing the fleet management and driver safety solutions is that the company has been able to meet the operational goals of stronger customer service, increased productivity, reduced costs and enhanced safety.

Published Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Written by Joyce Tam

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