On January 27, John Gleeson, Director of Sales and Marketing, and his predecessor, Chuck Samul, New York & Atlantic Railway, were the guest speakers at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting at Candlelight Diner in Commack. During the presentation, they discussed the importance of rail freight, its benefits and limitations.
“We view ourselves, in addition to being a commercial enterprise, as being something of a resource to the economy and the quality of life on Long Island, in taking trucks off the road,” Mr. Samul said.
The rail freight system on Long Island has approximately 270 miles of track, with more than 30,000 rail cars each year, which takes the equivalent of 120,000 trucks off the road, thereby reducing congestion and wear and tear on the roadways, bridges and tunnels. In addition, Mr. Gleeson said, there is less pollution; rail cars release 25% fewer emissions per ton-mile than a truck does.
The rail company transports consumer goods such as building materials, lumber, tile, stone, food, rice, tomato sauce, beer, paper goods, recyclables, waste materials, construction and demolition (C&D) debris. The trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “It’s essential that we capture as much of [these products] as possible and take this stress off our roads,” Mr. Gleeson said.
Mr. Samul said it is important that the trains show up on time under the precision scheduled railroading rule. “That means you do everything every day at the same time the same way,” he said. “We’ve got to be at certain points at certain times or we just can’t move.”
Some of the challenges the company faces, Mr. Gleeson said, include staffing. That is because many of their employees are “being poached” by Amtrak. Another is “the Class 1 problem” in that “we can only do what we have our hands on. When one of our Class 1s doesn’t bring us cars, we can’t get products to our customers and everything falls apart.”
Mr. Gleeson said they are continually educating new employees to fill positions within the company. They have a new class of 21 prospective employees, the most NY&A has had in one class. “We have to be aggressive in that space,” he said of hiring more employees. “We want to show our shippers what we can do, service-wise. It takes time.”
He also said they are looking to move up to 40,000 carloads a year, but that will entail more staff, utilizing more power and building more tracks. “which will be a more difficult thing to do in an environment where space is tight, especially in New York.”
After being in New York City for three years, Gleeson said it is “inspiring” to see what Class 1 customers can do with a limited amount of space. “It’s clever, there’s a lot of ingenuity. They move things fast and they get things done.”
LIMBA Chairman Ernie Fazio asked what is the one wish they had to improve the railway system. Gleeson said it would be to have nearby access to warehouses, but, because of the existing infrastructure, their trains could not be within reach of these facilities. Samul also said that he would like to see more distribution facilities on Long Island, but it must be accessible for rail freight. “Without that, some of the strength of the railroads is diminished.”
One of the attendees asked if any products manufactured on Long Island have been shipped by rail off the Island. Mr. Samul said NY&A has had some discussions with some manufacturers about trying to get their product off Long Island by rail. “It has never come to fruition to do that,” he said, adding that NY&A ships recyclables and waste materials off Long Island.
For the future of rail freight on Long Island, Gleeson said, “I see it hopefully growing. We have a lot of great opportunities right now.” Samul added that “there is traction” to move recyclables and waste materials off Long Island, but also to spend more time on the consumer side by hauling consumer products, especially food, which he said they “underperform,” especially when it comes to frozen and canned goods. “We can do better than that and I hope we can.”
For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.
*Photo is attached.
Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.