How Norfolk Southern is meeting the freight demands of tomorrow

Norfolk Southern (NS) is deploying groundbreaking technology on its road locomotive fleet to reduce fuel use and operating costs. Our consistent investments in network capacity, innovative technology, and reliable infrastructure help us deliver the safe, efficient, and dependable service our rail transportation customers deserve.

However, technology alone is not enough to prepare us for the future. A crucial and sometimes overlooked component of successfully implementing new technology is having the support of employees using it.

LEADER (Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display & Event Recorder), NS’ flagship fuel-saving system, calculates and displays the optimum speed at which to operate a train, depending on track topography and curvature, train length and weight, and other operating conditions.

Following LEADER’s cues, the engineer learns to back off the throttle before reaching the top of a hill, allowing the train’s momentum to carry it over the crest and descend at a slower pace. However, an engineer’s instinct is to power up the hill and apply the brake after it crests, which burns more fuel and puts additional stress on the tracks – exactly what LEADER is designed to correct.

How do you encourage employees to use new technology? In the case of LEADER, we gained dramatic increases through positive communication.

A group of NS road foremen met one-on-one with locomotive engineers to explain LEADER and its fuel-saving benefits. When the engineers began using the system, their supervisors made a point to thank them. LEADER usage doubled in a matter of days. No incentives, no discipline – just good old-fashioned positive feedback for proficient train-handling performance.

Open communication and positive reinforcement strengthen our workforce’s commitment to be the safest, most customer-focused, and successful transportation company in the world. It’s crucial to educate employees not only on how to use new technology, but also on how their individual roles impact the total system.