“We are just starting to make progress to have enough employees to offset the normal attrition,” CSX Chief Executive Jim Foote said. CSX on Thursday posted a 23% jump in fourth-quarter profit, even amid rising expenses, including more than $20 million on initiatives to attract and retain workers.
Union Pacific said that crew availability rates did improve during the quarter as it recalled employees who had been furloughed and streamlined processes for hiring and training conductors. About 75% of the railroad’s employees are vaccinated, which Mr. Fritz said helped blunt the severity of the Omicron variant among its workforce.
Still, the company is planning to have enough crews to run operations going forward, Mr. Fritz said. “We’re going to be a whole lot more relentless about and deliberate about the assumptions that we’re building into our plans,” he said.
The challenges cut into the projected cost savings that Union Pacific anticipated for the year. In October, the company projected $350 million in cost savings. It finished with $195 million. “We view the productivity as deferred, not lost,” Finance Chief Jennifer Hamann said.
The company’s fourth-quarter results were boosted by higher rates it received for shipping goods. An increase in fuel surcharges also helped generate a 12% increase in revenue to $5.7 billion compared with a year earlier. Expenses rose 5%.
Overall, Union Pacific said net income in the quarter rose 24% to $1.7 billion, or $2.66 a share, compared with $1.4 billion, or $2.05, a year earlier. Excluding a one-time charge related to an aborted rail-yard project, per-share earnings would have been $2.36 a year earlier.
Union Pacific expects shipping levels to pick up on its rails, with a projection for volume to rise at least 4.8% in 2022, compared with 4% last year.