CN Rail is on a roll.
The company shipped a record 2.65 million tonnes of grain in March, surpassing the previous 2017 record of 2.47 million tonnes by seven per cent.
It’s due to a combination of increased capacity through capital investments, good weather and reduced oil and potash traffic, although lumber and container traffic is high too, Sean Finn, CN’s executive vice-president of corporate services and chief legal officer said in an interview April 2.
CN has invested billions of dollars the last few years to double some track, make longer sidings and buy new, more efficient locomotives and rail cars.
During several weeks CN spotted 6,400 cars. Normally during winter it targets 4,160 cars a week, Finn said.
The backlog in grain movement on CN lines due to landslides earlier in the crop year, a strike and blockades, has almost been eliminated, he said.
Finn also praised other links in the supply chain, noting that to move so much grain, the entire system has to work efficiently together.
“If the terminals don’t unload the cars we deliver we can’t send the cars back to the country to be refilled,” Finn said.
The Western Grain Elevator Association, which represents Canada’s major grain companies, is pleased with how grain is moving, executive director Wade Sobkowich said in an interview April 2.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” he said. “That’s a good news story that should be reported on.
“I am hearing things are moving along very well. In fact we are seeing less absenteeism (at member companies).
“We are seeing more workers returning to work and it’s so far so good,” Sobkowich said.
Some workers were off because they travelled during vacations, or weren’t feeling well, he added. “Obviously we are watching it very closely. We’re concerned there could be a point in time when we see an increase in COVID cases among grain industry workers, but we’re not seeing that right now. People are working and grain is flowing.”
Finn credited CN staff for their hard work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The railway has 25,000 employees and only 10 are infected with the virus — two in Canada and eight in the United States.
Railways, along with other modes of transportation, have been deemed by the federal government essential in the battle against COVID-19.
“The railway is important to the Canadian economy and we work hard at it,” Finn said.
CN Rail also wants to assist charities struggling due to COVID-19 in the communities it connects, he said. Charity leaders can get information on contacting CN on the railway’s website.