The Board of Directors of CN announced on March 5 that Luc Jobin has left CN, and has appointed Jean-Jacques Ruest Interim President and CEO until a permanent replacement is in place. Mr. Ruest has been with the company for twenty-two years, the last eight as Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer.
“The Board believes the company needs a leader who will energize the team, realize CN’s corporate vision and take the company forward with the speed and determination CN is known for,” said Board Chairman Robert Pace. “Mr. Ruest is well known to customers and investors, and is well positioned to focus the company and its very experienced and proven team of railroaders to rapidly address operational challenges during the transition.”
The Board believes that in an increasingly competitive marketplace, CN must respond with speed and innovation to retain its leadership position. The Board also recognizes the immediate operational and customer service challenges the company has been facing since Fall 2017 – led by high demand and insufficient network resiliency, coupled with severe winter weather conditions.
“CN must accelerate execution of the innovation strategy articulated at our Investor Day last June,” said Mr. Pace. “The Board is confident this remains the right course to restore and retain industry-leading metrics and best in class customer service.”
Interim President and CEO JJ Ruest said the company will quickly improve the movement of Western Canadian grain and is directing additional people and equipment to clear backlogs across its network.
“We apologize for not meeting the expectations of our grain customers, nor our own high standards,” Ruest said. “The entire CN team has a sense of urgency and is fully focused on getting it right for farmers and our grain customers, regaining the confidence of Canadian businesses, and protecting Canada’s reputation as a stable trade partner in world markets. “Moving the Canadian economy is in our DNA. We can and we will do much better, and that starts today – no excuses,” Ruest continued. “CN has taken immediate steps to mobilize our proud and dedicated team of railroaders – the best in the business – in order to move more grain faster.”
These steps include:
• Offering incentives for key operating employees to delay retirement and postpone vacations, and for recently-retired operating employees to return to work;
• Deploying qualified management employees to operate extra trains;
• Adding train crews in Western Canada: about 250 conductors put in the field in last three months of 2017, with about 400 conductors coming into the field in the first three months of 2018, and an additional 375 from April to June;
• Leased 130 locomotives to increase capacity in Western Canada, almost all of which are now online;
• Investing over $250 million this year to build new track and yard capacity in Western Canada to boost supply chain fluidity and build in capacity resiliency for future grain crops.
CN delivered 4,577 empty hopper cars last week, up 35 percent from the February average of 3,400, and stated that all available hopper cars are in service and we will show sequential weekly improvements progressing towards 5,000 per week by the end of March.
“Canadians can count on CN to get this job done and to get it done safely, reliably and efficiently,” Ruest said. “We will provide regular weekly tracking on our grain movements and engage our grain customers.”