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Rail, trucking see cautiously optimistic 2017 outlook, say CSX, ODFL leaders

Jan 23, 2017

Rail and trucking sectors can be guardedly enthusiastic this year as Donald Trump assumes the presidency, a pair of industry leaders said today [Jan. 23].

Clarence Gooden, president of Class I railroad CSX Transportation, and David Congdon, CEO of less-than-truckload leader Old Dominion Freight Lines, made the comments in separate sessions as Jump Start 2017, presented by SMC3, opened in Atlanta.

When asked by the American Journal of Transportation if he is optimistic about the Trump presidency, Gooden said, “I absolutely am.

“I think you’re going to have a very good economy in 2017,” he said. “People are going to start spending and buying.”

Gooden said he also is encouraged by plans for highway infrastructure spending, noting that CSX hauls aggregate materials used in building roads, saying, “I’d like to see ’em resurface every road.”

In addition, Gooden pointed out that Trump has expressed desire to revive the coal industry, which was the longtime lifeblood for railroads.

With decline of coal hauling over the past several years, Gooden said, CSX has shuttered a number of coal-focused facilities in states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia while cutting jobs of about 6,000 of 32,000 employees, running longer trains and expanding in the intermodal arena, including developing intermodal hubs.

“Some of our largest customers now are truck lines,” Gooden said.

Congdon echoed Gooden’s positive sentiments.

“Overall,” Congdon said, “I think we’re looking for cautious optimism going into 2017,” said Congdon, citing increasing shipment weights for LTL motor carriers, as well as rising total truck tonnage and other favorable economic indicators. “In 2017 and beyond, we have our challenges and opportunities cut out for us.”

Congdon, who co-chairs the American Trucking Associations’ Infrastructure Funding Task Force, said he is hopeful of advancement of the 10-year, $1.3 trillion infrastructure investment package promised by the Trump administration. “I’m much more optimistic about the future,” Congdon said in response to a question from AJOT seeking his view on Trump assuming the presidency. He said he is “waiting with bated breath” to see what Trump can actually accomplish but is confident the new president will forcefully push his agenda, commenting, “I think it’ll be good for the economy.”

Congdon said he would be delighted to see rollback of some of the preponderance of federal regulations impacting trucking, commenting, “This would be wonderful for us as we’re probably the most regulated deregulated industry in America.”

Kevin Burch, president of Dayton, Ohio-based motor carrier Jet Express, who recently assumed chairmanship of the American Trucking Associations, added, “We’ve been hogtied for a long time.”

Comprehensive coverage of Jump Start 2017 is slated to appear in the Feb. 13 edition of the American Journal of Transportation.

David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Lines, left, chats with Clarence Gooden, president of CSX Transportation, at SMC3’s Jump Start 2017 in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT)
David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Lines, left, chats with Clarence Gooden, president of CSX Transportation, at SMC3’s Jump Start 2017 in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT)

Author Photo

For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist.

A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists.

Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.

A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.

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