It’s Been Quiet, too Quiet

Every once in a while, my mother will call me at work. Most of the time it is to ask about something that is going on with the family, or she might have a question about something in general. We will get through whatever she called about, and she will ask me if everything is ok, because I sound distracted. 99% of the time, she has called while I am in the middle of something else, and because I don’t want to be rude or get into a game of phone tag with her, I take the call. Now I don’t think that she thinks I am sitting around doing nothing waiting for the phone to ring, but she is surprised when I tell her that I was in the middle of something, and I was focused on it. Parents…Railroads, as we have discussed before, are the ultimate disciples of Newton’s Second Law, which states that “an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon a force.” That law alone explains why railroads are so fuel efficient: once you get a train moving, other than overcoming friction and other drag, you don’t have to do anything to keep things moving at the same speed. Compared to other forms of transportation, we don’t have as much of those forces, so less fuel is needed.Operationally, railroads (and especially short lines) are also like that in their organizations. Really, really efficient, because they don’t have a lot of drag. That lack of drag comes from the simple fact that we don’t have as many employees doing the jobs as a larger corporation does. The up side of this is efficiency. The down side can be explained with a comment that was made the other day when a friend at another railroad was promoted to a very high management position in his company. I pointed out to him that if he hadn’t figured it out yet, it didn’t make a difference what his title was, the job was basically the same. His response? “Oh, you figured that out too!”With all of the above being said, no matter what your title in your organization, you have a lot of hats to wear. Most of the time during the year, you may have multiple hats on at one time, trying to juggle everything. Right now though, it is quiet. With people on vacation, school summer break, and various other things associated with the calendar, there just isn’t much going on in the railroad world right now.Now don’t sit back and take this opportunity to take a nap. Use the time to catch up on all those things you will have to scramble to do when the due date sneaks up on you. When was the last time you updated your time table? How about your security or bridge management plan? Crossing listings? All of these things are things that need to be done, but we usually push them off to tomorrow. Why not take the time to get ahead in something, potentially helping yourself down the road for when you don’t have the time to do them, but the due date is looming?Bottom Line? Just because it is quiet, doesn’t mean you don’t have stuff to do. Get it done, because there will be more to do. --By Steve Friedland
steven-fb.jpg Steve Friedland, vice president and general manager of Massachusetts Central Railroad, is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. He got his start with the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, where he worked for 22 years in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He has served as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and was chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He is currently a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.