Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Industrials

CSX Corporation (CSX) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

CSX Earnings Call - Final Transcript

CSX Corporation (NASDAQ: CSX) Q3 2021 earnings call dated Oct. 20, 2021

Corporate Participants:

Bill Slater — Head of Investor Relations

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Jamie Boychuk — Executive Vice President of Operations

Sean Pelkey — Vice President and Acting Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Ken Hoexter — Bank of America — Analyst

Amit Mehrotra — Deutsche Bank AG — Analyst

Tom Wadewitz — UBS Group AG — Analyst

Justin Long — Stephens Inc. — Analyst

Scott Group — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Brandon Oglenski — Barclays — Analyst

Brian Ossenbeck — J. P. Morgan Securities LLC — Analyst

Chris Wetherbee — Citigroup — Analyst

Bascome Majors — Susquehanna International Group — Analyst

John Stumpf — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Jason Seidl — Cowen — Analyst

Benjamin Nolan — Stifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Jeff Kauffman — Vertical Research Partners LLC — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Good afternoon. My name is Emma, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Q3 2021 CSX Corporation Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] After the speakers’ remarks, there will be a question-answer session. [Operator Instructions]

Bill Slater, Head of Investor Relations, you may begin your conference.

Bill Slater — Head of Investor Relations

Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Joining me on today’s call are Jim Foote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Boone, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Jamie Boychuk, Executive Vice President of Operations, and Sean Pelkey, Acting Chief Financial Officer. On Slide 2 is our forward-looking disclosure followed by our non-GAAP disclosure on Slide 3.

With that, it’s my pleasure to introduce President and Chief Executive Officer, Jim Foote.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thanks, Bill. Thank you to all who are joining us today for the call. I want to begin by thanking all of CSX’ employees for their extraordinary efforts to help our customers navigate the strained global supply chain. Across virtually every industry, there are challenges presented by extended lead times, port congestion, shortage of the labor and key materials, and lack of storage capacity.

While the current operating environment is challenging, we are not sitting idle. We are designing new solutions to help reduce congestion, adding container yards and bridge to keep Intermodal terminals fluid. And we are investing in both people and network capacity to ensure CSX is able to reliably meet customer needs today and for years to come.

In a few minutes, Kevin will go through the revenue numbers and discuss some of the steps we are taking to provide service offerings to our customers, to help them overcome these challenges. And Jamie will provide an update of our hiring initiatives as well as actions we are taking to keep our network fluid.

So, let’s first turn to the presentation and begin on Slide 4. With an overview of our third quarter results, operating income increased 26% to $1.44 billion. Earnings per share increased 34% to $0.43, and the operating ratio improved by 50 basis points to 56.4%. These figures include the results of Quality Carriers, which did not have a significant impact on operating income but increased third quarter operating ratio by approximately 250 basis points, excluding transaction and integration expenses.

I’ll now kick it over to Kevin.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Thank you, Jim. Turning to slide 5. Third quarter revenue increased 24% year-over-year. With growth across all major lines of business, the inclusion of Quality Carriers revenue represented roughly 8 percentage points of the total increase. Supply chain challenges including a lack of labor and equipment continue to impact almost every market we serve, driving volatility and freight flows, and uneven volumes. Merchandise revenue increased 6% on 2% lower volumes, as higher revenue across all other markets was offset by declines in auto, driven by the ongoing semiconductor shortages.

The industrial in construction-related markets such as metals and equipment, forest products and minerals, all showed strong year-over-year volume growth. In addition, our core chemicals business grew but was partially offset by declines in crude oil and other energy-related markets.

Intermodal revenue increased 14% on 4% higher volumes, due to increased international shipments as a result of strong demand. Inventory replenishment and growth in rail volumes of East Coast ports. The domestic side was more challenged, as a multiple supply side constraints including container and chassis shortages have resulted in inability to meet the strong demand.

Coal revenue increased 39% on 16% higher volumes, with growth across all end-markets. Domestic coal benefited from higher utility and industrial demand, and export coal revenue increased from the combination of higher demand and higher export benchmark prices. Other revenue increased primarily due to higher Intermodal storage and equipment usage due to the broader supply chain disruptions from truck driver shortages, chassis availability, and the lack of warehouse capacity.

Turning to Slide 6. This is an extraordinary time, as customers and global supply-chain face challenges we have never experienced before. On trucks to chassis, supports to containers, lack of truck drivers to labor challenges at the warehouse and production facilities, we are seeing shortages everywhere. The entire CSX team has been highly focused on delivering new, innovative solutions and partnering with customers to address the supply-chain challenges by driving more volume to the railroad.

Across the network, we have accelerated investments to create new capacity. To address the truck driver shortages, we have added 13 new overflow container yards, implemented new steel-wheel options for West Coast cargo, and added TRANSFLO sites, that offer customers additional options to move their freight at a lower cost.

To address the port congestion in container shortages, we have added new solutions to accelerate repositioning of containers and utilized port-to-port lanes to alleviate marine terminal congestion. We are working closely with partners, including GPA to utilize additional inland rail yards to help reduce congestion at the port.

We have also been aggressively expanding our customer solutions team to further supplement the significant investments we are making in customer-facing technology. Our team is working diligently to create new solutions and options for shippers with supply chain disruptions unlikely to improve in the near term.

Finally, we are starting to see early signs of customers making long-term investment decisions to reinvest in onshore production and supply chain solutions. To address these customer needs, we continue to develop and invest in new CSX select sites that offer shovel-ready CSX served solution to meet customer requirements.

With that, I will hand it over to Jamie to discuss operations.

Jamie Boychuk — Executive Vice President of Operations

Thank you, Kevin. As noted, our teams are working closely together to find new ways to overcome the supply chain disruptions and provide new solutions for our customers. In addition to the ongoing supply challenges, as past quarter was further impacted by a rise in COVID mark-offs due to the Delta variant.

At peak, we had 700 employees marked off, including regional concentrations that required us to adjust our network plan in real-time to get customers their freight. Despite these challenges, we were able to maintain network performance compared to the prior quarter. And we expect the initiatives we have underway to drive improved fluidity going forward. Kevin touched on many of the things we’re doing to help reduce congestion at the ports and keep containers moving, and I want to thank my Intermodal team for the exceptional work they are doing to accomplish these goals.

These efforts are highlighted by the nearly 90% Intermodal trip plan compliance that continued to deliver in a challenging environment. We entered the year focused on hiring. The people required to respond to the rising demand. And I’m proud of how our team has been able to think creatively and act decisively to overcome the challenges presented by the tight labor market. Over the course of the year, we have redesigned our recruiting process to eliminate unnecessary steps and significantly shortened the time from application to offer.

We have also implemented new recruiting tools and referral programs that are improving our application through the different conversation rates and better identifying highly qualified candidates. These efforts have successfully increased the size and frequency of our conductor classes and provided strong ongoing hire visibility by expanding our new hire pipeline, almost 300% since July.

We are also increasing Intermodal headcount and supplemental labor to keep the terminals fluid and allow us to continue moving containers for our customers. While these hiring initiatives are underway, we’re taking steps to increase the availability of our existing T&E workforce. We have implemented new attendance-based initiative programs, which allow us to better utilize our existing headcount to move more freight for our customers.

We’re also making upgrades to our network to increase throughput and create additional capacity. We’re installing more automated equipment at our hump yards, we are converting Intermodal terminals to grounded facilities in order to increase capacity, and we are expanding our investment in autonomous trains to increase Intermodal terminal throughput. While we still have sufficient line of road capacity, we are strategically investing in growth by extending sidings in select locations across the network. These siding investments will allow us to continue to refine our train plan and provide growth capacity for years to come. Every action we take is focused on network reliability that begins and ends with running a balanced train plan to minimize delay and maximize network performance. Running a scheduled network ensures assets are in the right place at the right time. We will continue to maintain network balance and the principles of scheduled railroading as we add resources to meet current demand. These principles have allowed continuing the strong performance as we enter into peak season.

Turning to Slide 8. Maintaining a safe operation is the foundation to the success in any other operating goal we want to pursue, and we remain committed to being the safest railroad. In the third quarter, personal injury rate improved sequentially and ongoing safety initiatives also drove a decrease in injury severity. While train accident rate increased slightly from last quarter’s record result, accidents rates have improved year over year. Focus for the remainder of the year will be critical rule compliance and reducing human factor accidents. We are leveraging the approximate 9,000 tablets distributed to field employees to more productively deliver these messages. Not only do the tablets allow real-time communication of key safety information, but we are also able to more effectively combine electronic and in-person communications to increase the impact of our trainee programs and drive lasting changes in the behavior that will better protect our employees.

I’ll now turn the call over to Sean for the financials.

Sean Pelkey — Vice President and Acting Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jamie, and good afternoon. Looking at the income statement on Slide 9, operating income grew nearly $300 million or 26%. Revenue was up 24% reflecting gains across all major markets, higher fuel prices, and the impact of Quality Carriers. The operating ratio of 56.4% is a third quarter record for CSX as we focus on operating efficiently and growing the business.

As a reminder, this includes an impact of approximately 250 basis points from ongoing operations at Quality. Looking below the line, interest and other expense was $16 million favorable to last year due to a lower weighted average coupon and lower average debt balances as well as favorable pension impacts. And income tax expense was up on higher pre-tax earnings. The effective tax rate for the quarter was 24.3%.

Looking at expenses in more detail on the next slide, total cost increased $349 million or 23% in the quarter. Including transaction and related expenses, approximately $200 million of the increase was driven by Quality Carriers. Higher locomotive fuel prices were also a significant factor, up about $90 million versus last year. Partially offsetting these items, real estate gains were $56 million higher. Non-fuel inflation remained steady versus last quarter and around 3%. As I mentioned last time, we have some lagging contracts that may drive higher inflation going into next year. As Jamie discussed, we continue to focus on hiring and retaining train and engine employees. While headcount was roughly flat sequentially, excluding the addition of Quality Carriers, the conductor count was up and was offset by reductions in other areas of the business. As a result, we experienced $16 million more in hiring and retention costs versus last year.

You’ll note that we have renamed the prior MS&O line to Purchased Services & Other. The base expenses are identical to the prior MS&O category, but the new description better reflects the costs in this line post-acquisition. Increased costs on this line reflect the addition of Quality as well as higher intermodal terminal and locomotive expense. Depreciation was up on a higher asset base that also includes the acquisition impact. Finally, we are proud to report another all-time record for fuel efficiency in the quarter. This reflects continued focus and investment by CSX demonstrating our commitment to sustainability, and the ongoing environmental advantage of rail.

Looking into the fourth quarter, we typically see a seasonal increase in operating expense due to weather, lower capitalized labor as well as holidays and vacations. That trend should continue this year in addition to expected headwinds from higher incentive compensation and lower sequential gains on property sales in the fourth quarter. Peak season expenses are also likely to be higher than normal as a result of ongoing supply chain disruptions.

Now turning to cash flow on Slide 11. With operating income up 34% on a year to date basis, free cash flow before dividends this year is $2.9 billion, up nearly 50%. Free cash flow conversion on net income is exceeding 100% year-to-date and we expect it to remain near this level on a full year basis. The company’s cash balance of $2.2 billion is beginning to normalize. The lower balance reflects the acquisition in the quarter and a step up in distributions to shareholders. We expect cash to continue to normalize over time. After fully funding capital investments in our core infrastructure, year-to-date shareholder returns have exceeded $2.9 billion including approximately $2.3 billion in buybacks and over $600 million in dividends. We will continue to be balanced and opportunistic in our buyback approach and we remain committed to returning excess cash to our shareholders.

With that, let me turn it back to Jim for his closing remarks.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thank you, Sean. Concluding with Slide 12, we are maintaining our full year outlook for double-digit revenue growth before the impact from Quality Carriers. We expect capital expenditures to be at the top end of our initial $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion range due to materials cost inflation, the capacity investments we just reviewed, and the inclusion of Quality Carriers’ capital spend.

I’ll conclude my remarks the same way I began. We are committed to helping our customers overcome the current supply chain challenges. And as you heard today, our entire team is aligned around this goal and we will continue to act. We have a strong hiring pipeline and we will hire until we have staffed the network to match demand. We expect to hire above attrition throughout the rest of this year and into next year.

Economic demand remained strong and CSX will help customers capture that demand. Everything we do begins with a commitment to providing customers a high-quality service. We will build on the positive momentum from actions taken to date. We will continue putting resources in place to drive growth and we will provide customers with creative new offerings that make CSX a more meaningful part of the customer supply chain.

Back to you, Bill.

Bill Slater — Head of Investor Relations

Thank you, Jim. In the interest of time, I would ask everyone to please limit themselves to one question.

With that, we will now take questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Ken Hoexter. Your line is open.

Ken Hoexter — Bank of America — Analyst

Great. Good afternoon. Congrats on some really solid results in a tough environment. It’s great to see. Maybe just a follow-up either Jim or Sean just talking about your thoughts on pricing and I know you were kind of running through some of the category there. Maybe how much you can still address and some of the opportunities to catch this rising market and obviously call up 20%. It seems like you’re touching some of that maybe even faster than thought or there is different kind of movement. Maybe just delve into the pricing outlook. Thanks.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Hey, Ken. I’ll take a shot at this. This is Kevin. I think it’s clear that cost inflation over the last year, expectations have risen and are rising in the next year. And this is not surprising to our customers who are facing the same cost inflation pressures that we see. And what we strive to do is be transparent around that in our conversations with customers.

Fourth quarter and first quarter are heavy renewal periods for us, so we’ll be having those discussions, but the exciting part though, as we get into a higher inflation environment is really the value proposition we offer when your — when a customer is looking to offset some of that cost inflation. Rail has such a great alternative, they ship more of their volumes over to rail. And then you add on top of that the persistent driver shortages that we’re likely to see well into next year and probably the years ahead, the value proposition is there. And then on top of that, the environmental discussions that we’re having increasingly with customers is really resonating with those, so it’s no surprise.

Cost inflation is higher than what we saw last year, it will be a higher cost inflation environment than what we’ve probably seen in the last number of years, and we got to have conversations with our customers around that.

Ken Hoexter — Bank of America — Analyst

I guess if any — just to follow-up, any detailed thoughts on kind of the trend of pure pricing, pace of acceleration, or any level of that detail?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Well, we get the touch as I mentioned, contract into the fourth and first quarter two quarter, that’s a heavy renewal period. And we’ll continue to have those discussions. I think I’ll probably leave it at that.

Ken Hoexter — Bank of America — Analyst

All right, thank you very much, K.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Amit Mehrotra. Your line is unmuted.

Amit Mehrotra — Deutsche Bank AG — Analyst

Thank you, operator. Hi, everybody. Kevin, can you just update us on the Quality Carriers acquisition, the status of the revenue opportunity, you’re converting some of those into chemical carloads. And just when we may see kind of a more meaningful uplift? Obviously, that’s a great offset to Intermodal carloads just are growing — just, seems like it’s a great idiosyncratic opportunity, if you can just give us a little bit of update there. And then just any initial thoughts on margins or performance next year? Obviously, you’ve got a big pricing cycle ahead of you. Any willingness to opine about what the opportunity is from an OR perspective next year would be highly appreciated. Thanks.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Maybe I’ll let Sean take the OR question, but I don’t think we’re giving guidance today on next year. But on the Quality Carriers, as you’ll remember that really is focused on our chemical franchise and the customer reception has been overwhelmingly positive in a market where supply is constrained. Our customers are looking for more options to move their freight and so Randy and his team combined with our TRANSFLO team have found a number of options and we’re moving freight today. Now that we’re doing it in a way where it’s possible and calculated and that the customer is seeing a good service on our product and we’ll continue to build momentum in the market. But I think everything that we thought before we made the acquisition is coming true.

The only thing I will say is, from a equipment standpoint, obviously with things tight right now, the equipment backlog is — it’s going to take a little bit longer in the next year to really ramp that up, when we think about some of the ISO tank solutions that we’re contemplating out there. So other than that everything is full speed ahead. I would say there’s customers that we believe would be longer — would take a lot longer to adopt, that have been first to adopt, which is exciting for us, our market leaders in the industry. And their adoption, I think is going to really set the tone for this to really take off into the market.

So the other thing that I think is positive, it shows other partners that we have — that we’re capable of doing this, using the TRANSFLO solution in unique ways. And we don’t always have to do it ourselves. We would love partners that continue to bring freight and through our — all of our different capabilities that we have. So I think that momentum is starting to be seen in the market as well.

Amit Mehrotra — Deutsche Bank AG — Analyst

Do you want to — Sean, do you want to talk about the OR? I mean, maybe you can offer guidance but maybe another way to ask is, there’s obviously a lag on this coal revenue or coal opportunity, just wondering are we — is it — are we going to see more uplift in coal yields in the fourth quarter as you — as some of that lag gets caught up. Just talk to us maybe about the cadence, if you don’t want to answer though our question next year.

Sean Pelkey — Vice President and Acting Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, on the — clearly on the export coal side, you’ve seen some favorability in the prices there. And as we mentioned before, our price is tied to the benchmarks and you will see some favorability sequentially in the fourth quarter versus third quarter. It’s a strong market. We continue to see favorability in the next year, how long it holds up at these levels, it probably won’t hold here, but these are extremely elevated levels that will probably carry in the next year, and hopefully create some variability there. But it’s a — everybody is trying to produce more coal and we’re trying to move more of it today. And at the mine, there has been some struggles here in the third quarter, as you can see with some of the production hiccups that some of the producers have had. So we’re working through that as diligently as we can and really ramping up our ability to serve those customers.

Amit Mehrotra — Deutsche Bank AG — Analyst

Okay. Thank you very much. Appreciate the time.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Tom Wadewitz. Your line is unmuted.

Tom Wadewitz — UBS Group AG — Analyst

Good afternoon. I think this is probably for you Kevin, but maybe for others also. How do you think about the impact of capacity constraints on volumes? We think Intermodal would have been meaningfully stronger. Do you — how much optimism do you have as you look forward that maybe into ’22 that capacity constraints get alleviated quickly? And how does that kind of inform your perspective on growth looking for next year? Is it reasonable to expect easing of constraints in a pretty good acceleration? I guess it’s primarily around Intermodal, but you may have capacity constraints in other areas as well. Thank you.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Tom, it’s Jim. Let me take a shot. I would say, yeah, we’re clearly constrained, there was more business out there this quarter. There has been more business out there throughout this year that we could not handle. And the primary reason for that is our inability like everyone else in the world right now to ramp up our workforce coming out of the steep declines of the early phases of the pandemic.

As Jamie talked about, we are now starting to see the fruits of all of our hard work for the last nine months or more and are beginning to bring on more people. It actually deploy those people into the field, so we’re able to operate a little bit better, and we fully expect that that trend will continue as we go forward unless there is some other crazy curveball gets thrown at us, and be in a much, much better position as we exit this year and move into next year, and hopefully be able to take advantage of what seems to be a continuation of strong demand for transportation services into 2022 and now some people are even saying 2023.

Tom Wadewitz — UBS Group AG — Analyst

Do you think a lot of that’s in your control or is it hard to have visibility given the warehouse labor, drayage labor, other pieces?

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

My first and number one priority is getting enough — the — CSX employees in the trains — principally conductors on the train. So we can operate more fluidly and get back to some of the performance metrics that we were putting up pre-pandemic in the end of 2019, in the beginning of 2020. The fluidity, the dual, the on-time performance, the customer service metrics that we put out there, the trip plan compliance numbers, those numbers are all down and that’s principally a result of our having an extremely difficult time getting people to come to work for us. And it’s taken a complete, I would say, reengineering of the hiring process, a complete review of everything that we do when we onboard employees for us to get to this point. This has been extremely difficult and we’re no different and every, every business — at least in the United States, every business — I think, every business, every hospital, every school, everybody is struggling with the same phenomenon of trying to get people to come to work.

I am confident that we have done everything we can do right now and are seeing that numbers are increasing in terms of the number of employees that we can put into our training programs and begin to qualify them to go to work. And like I said, unless something else comes along that disrupts that process, I hope we’re going to be in a lot better shape at the end of this year, the beginning of next year than we have been over the last nine months.

Tom Wadewitz — UBS Group AG — Analyst

Great. Thanks for the insights, Jim.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Justin Long.

Justin Long — Stephens Inc. — Analyst

Thanks, and good afternoon. Sean, I think you called out a few sequential headwinds to opex in the fourth quarter. I believe it was incentives comps, lower gains on sale and then some peak season extends. Any way you can put a finer point around those three items to just help us understand the order of magnitude here in the next quarter.

Sean Pelkey — Vice President and Acting Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Justin. So you got the items right. Higher incentive comp, lower gains on property sales, and then just some additional costs related to the supply chain. If you put all those together, you’re probably looking at about a couple of pennies over and above what we would normally see from the third quarter to the fourth quarter.

Justin Long — Stephens Inc. — Analyst

Okay, very helpful. And any thoughts on other revenue as well. I know, it was pretty elevated and took a decent step-up here sequentially ex-Quality, but thoughts on that into the fourth quarter and maybe into next year?

Sean Pelkey — Vice President and Acting Chief Financial Officer

So if you look just at the pure other revenue line not considering the trucking revenue line, which trucking revenue should be pretty consistent quarter-to-quarter, really the big driver, as Kevin said there is the intermodal storage and premise use charges as well as demurrage. And that’s a direct result of what’s going on in the supply chain that we’ve been talking about here. So as things start to improve, that line — the other revenue line will come down. But here we sit in October, we’re probably in about the same place as we were in Q3 and we’ll see where it goes from here.

Justin Long — Stephens Inc. — Analyst

Okay, I appreciate the time. Thanks.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Scott Group. Your line is open.

Scott Group — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Hey, thanks. Afternoon, guys. So just back on headcount, if you can get all the people that you’d like to get, I guess two thoughts. One like — or how much — it sounds like you want to be above attrition directionally like what kind of percentage increases in headcount are you thinking about?

And is there a way to think about it if you add back 5% to headcount? What do you think that means to volume growth and things like that? Do you still think you can grow volume in excess of headcount? I’m just trying to understand the spread there and thanks. Thank you.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah, Scott. So what we’re looking on a sequential basis is modest increases in headcount, right. We’re bringing on — trying to fill classes with 40 every week and then getting those folks trained up and out into the field, right. So you’re not going to see dramatic increases in headcount. I think it’s also fair to assume that we’ve got capacity still on our existing trains and capacity on the network. So we are hiring for growth. But it’s not — it doesn’t need to be one for one.

Scott Group — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Do you think next year is a year where you could grow headcount?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t be the target.

Scott Group — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Bryan [Phonetic] Brandon Oglenski. Your line is open.

Brandon Oglenski — Barclays — Analyst

Hey, guys. It’s Brandon. So I just wanted to ask a quick one about the fourth quarter cost commentary. I guess I don’t know if it was addressed or asked but does that mean it’s going to be hard to show alarm from mid-to-near term? And then, I guess, longer term if I can sneak a two-part question. Kevin, what are some of the structural things that you think you can leverage with the headcount, kind of building off of Scott’s question there.

Sean Pelkey — Vice President and Acting Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So just on the OR question, we’re not going to give OR guidance. But I think it’s fair to assume sequentially given some of the cost pressures as well as just the normal seasonality we’ll probably see in OR that’s a little bit higher in the fourth quarter than the third quarter.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Brandon, I guess the question was what can we do with more headcount? It seems…

Brandon Oglenski — Barclays — Analyst

Yeah. He was going to do…

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Strategically, we’re going to move a lot more freight. When we talk to customers right now, they’re looking for capacity. And they’re trying to offset a lot of cost inflation too. The environment couldn’t be any better for us to go out and sell the product we have. So we’re going to move more freight and we’re going to get more wallet share with the customer. It’s the perfect environment for us.

Brandon Oglenski — Barclays — Analyst

All right. Thanks, Kevin. Thanks, Sean.

Operator

Your next line comes from the — your next question comes from the line of Brian Ossenbeck. Your line is open.

Brian Ossenbeck — J. P. Morgan Securities LLC — Analyst

Hey, thanks for taking the question. So, Jim, I just wanted to ask a bigger picture question about just capacity and play with the regulators in DC, and obviously, what your carriers put out there later this week and next week. But it looks like you have some of the — a lot of capacity solutions here that you’re ramping up on your own. Do you think you need additional help on that for some of your supply chain partners? Maybe some perspective on what you can do on your own versus what you sort of need help with?

And then, just contrasting that with obviously the big other revenue you just mentioned, the demurrage is a cost for everybody at this point, but there have been some fairly pointed comments out of the STB about growing and focusing maybe less on the OR than on growth. So maybe you can address all that in terms of adding capacity if you need help, and what the regulators you think will take away from all this? Thank you.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

I think Kevin did a very good job of outlining all of the activities that we’ve been undertaking here over the last six months or so to do on our own without any plotting to improve and increase capacity. We were way ahead of the curve. I mean Chicago is the biggest terminal for us in terms of intermodal capacity expanding our 59th Street facility that — we bought that property two years ago. We had it. We had another yard right down the street, which was ready to go, trains available. So we — we’ve always tried to be somewhat visionary in trying to determine where the growth would be and make sure that we were properly positioned.

Some of these new initiatives like Kevin talked about, moving traffic inland from Savannah into a facility in Atlanta. We had a yard available there. Wasn’t an Intermodal yard. We created an Intermodal yard. And so, we’re taking the steps that we think are appropriate and necessary in order to make sure that our railroad continues to operate more fluid and provide better service all the time. And that’s always been the case, that will always be the case. And it’s — whether that’s mainline track that moves merchandise business or whatever it is, we’re always being thoughtful in our planning process to make sure that we have the capacity available to handle traffic growth as it comes on. The lucky fact is that we — over the last four years, by changing the methodologies we used to run the railroad have freed up an enormous amount of capacity across the rail network just simply by running trains in a more reliable and efficient manner.

And so, we don’t need to make big, big, big investments in the railroad in order to handle future growth. We’ve got locomotives in storage, so we’re ready to go. Had thought, I believe, it was on the year end conference call in January where I called out the fact that we were going to be hiring. I fully believed in as much as at that point in time, we had about 300 of our train and engine service employees off on COVID, that we would just simply do what we’d always done. We’d hire 500 employees, the 300 employees would come back who got sick, and we’d be rocking and rolling and we’d be moving freight. No one ever gave me a heads up that says, oh, by the way, when you want to hire somebody, nobody is going to want to work for you.

For us, all the people that you had furloughed as the railroad had — this traffic had declined so dramatically is so many more than was usual. When we called them back and said, do you want to come back to work? They said, no, I decided to go do something else. A change in my lifestyle. I’m going to go enjoy the scenery on the Jersey coast or whatever it might be. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to CSX. This is a phenomenon that nobody saw coming. And it is a phenomenon that everybody in the supply chain whether you’re a trucker, whether you’re a steamship company, whether you’re a port, whether you’re a warehouse operator, whatever you do, this is a phenomenon that is impacting everyone.

And everyone is trying to deal with this, what is now the new norm, so you’ve to change everything the way we think about it. And that’s — but have done that as we always do. We adapted. We recognized the situation and we adapted, and we made changes and that’s why we’re reasonably confident that we’ll be in better shape as we move forward this year, and in pretty good shape as we move into next year. I don’t need the — I don’t need any help from the government in order to figure out what I’m supposed to do. I just — I want to make sure the government that sent in — that screwed it up worse.

Brian Ossenbeck — J. P. Morgan Securities LLC — Analyst

Understood. Thanks, Jim. If I could sneak one quick one in the alpha stuff on Page 6. Do you think that would be permanent going into the future, these things you had pulled forward from prior plans, or do you think this is more of a case of reacting to kind of what we see here? Thank you.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think we’re — I think what we’re doing, we’re restarting the situation as simple as that. We can think, we can plan, we can do all kinds of billings. Unfortunately, I think we’ve had more black swan events in the last two years than most people would experience in a lifetime. So, as I said, what’s the next thing? So, I am — I started off my remarks commenting on — or probably saying how proud I was of our employees. All of this going on, all of these challenges, all of these changes, all of these domains, all of these people saying, first of all, the entire supply chain issue was as a result of railroad, oh my God, the railroads said, it screwed this thing up, or then it’s time where everybody figured out, and it’s probably the railroads. We don’t know the warehouses where this stuff goes.

We don’t have the trucks to bring it there. If I need to buy a truck and bring it there, I’ll bring it there and I’ll put the box in the warehouse parking lot, then it’d be somebody else’s problem, but most of the issue is associated with everything that’s been talked about. The railroads are doing an extremely good job. Their employees, they have been critical workers throughout the entire pandemic have been out there working and not been home in the basement, have been complying with all the requirements and making sure that the economy keeps going. And so the railroad guys, not to CSX, but the entire railroad industry has done a phenomenal job under unbelievably difficult circumstances.

Brian Ossenbeck — J. P. Morgan Securities LLC — Analyst

Thank you, Jim. Appreciate it.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Chris Wetherbee with Citi. Your line is open.

Chris Wetherbee — Citigroup — Analyst

Hey, thanks. Good afternoon guys. Jim, I think you mentioned on the call that the quality impact was more than 200 basis points on the operating ratio. And so I guess it’s sort of struck me that, you guys are running sort of the core rail business at a — an operating ratio you really haven’t seen before. And I guess in the context — and I understand the pricing environment, particularly on the accesorial side, it is certainly elevated and that probably has some impact on how we should be thinking about operating ratio. But maybe a big picture as we think forward, you are growing volume arguably better than your peers, pricing is going to be a cycle here for a period of time, and you’re talking about bringing some folks back, but service is good. Can you talk a little bit about maybe, we need to think about it a new way to think about a lot over the long run? I guess I just want to make sure I understand what this business is capable of in terms of incremental margins and the ability to take on some of this new freight and new opportunities which seems to be very…

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yup, you did the math. And yeah, that was excluding some of the transaction costs and some other things too. So it’s pretty simple math, the railroad is running efficiently. When we stretch, which is also like a million, million times, this is not about OR, this is not about low can we go, how many heads can we take out. We — like we’re doing right now and the reason we’re stretching is because we’re trying every single hour of rate and when you do that and you’re focused on getting it there as quickly as you can and as easily as you can, it resulted in a — unfortunately not a perfect service product, but a very good service product in difficult times, you do efficiently. And as a result of that, the score adds up but then you’ve got a low operating ratio, but that’s not the goal, that’s just a result. And so yeah, we run up a pretty good number.

I would have preferred to do a lot of our business. As we said, we could have and we try to do every single day, we try to provide solutions to our customers. Our goal here is to move more freight, that’s what we do. We move freight. And the more freight we move, the more revenue deploying the top and more efficiently we operate, simple as that, it’s just math. So you know what, think about what they — think about — you want to worry about what the operating ratio was, think about what the operating ratio could be for the railroad industry if they were able to grow more than it’s historically grown. Then you can start talking about what the operating ratios might be, start thinking about how much cost you can take out.

Chris Wetherbee — Citigroup — Analyst

Okay. That’s helpful color. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Bascome Majors. Your line is open.

Bascome Majors — Susquehanna International Group — Analyst

Yeah, thanks for taking my question. Jim, as you alluded to earlier, you’ve been talking about hiring to support growth since January, certainly double down that — on that in July, I mean, it’s been a big topic today. But at this point, it doesn’t feel like your U.S. competitors are talking as much about labor and some of the challenges there that they’re having as you are today. And you got a letter from the STB on Monday about CSX service specifically. So can you help us understand, is there something different with your situation with labor versus your other public peers in the U.S., is it the messaging difference? Just anything to help us unscramble, that would be helpful. Thank you.

James M. Foote — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, well, I’m trying to unscramble it for myself. And yeah, I’ve said from the very beginning of this year that we had a challenge in terms of hiring. We needed to hire. I thought we would be able to hire like we always had. We weren’t able to hire like we always had. As you said that now, but reported to the STB in terms of all of the railroads, whether it’d be velocity, whether it would be dual, my service metrics are continuing to lead in most areas. So the railroad here is still running better than most. During that period of time where we were finding out that a lot of people wanted to make career choices and lead the company that we hadn’t expected. We were having the difficulties that everybody else was having during that period of time.

We were the epicenter of the — I think we get probably hit during that period of time a little more severely. The states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, have had a little more rough time and I am not pointing out the reason why that might be, that’s just the facts. And so while we have been saying publicly, we are hiring as said aggressively anyone right now that really want to come and work here during the midst of the worst — of the pandemic in the world ongoing in our service territory.

And yeah, guess what, I got a letter. Now the STB takes main complaints from customers and they will land to me, so we’ll they respond, they’re just doing the job, we’ll respond. I found it a little unfortunate, but under the circumstances though, everything we’re doing is based upon what our overall service metrics show our performance to be based upon on how the STB measures us in terms of how we operate. So we got the letter. So little big boy have been around. We’ll deal with it. We’ll respond, we’ll will work with the regulator and our customers to try and — trying to address any customer issues. The letter is posted, but you can figure out who the customer is, if they’re having a problem from the letter, I don’t know why they just don’t call me. We tell every customer I need. I give him my business card, I give him my cell phone number. So if you’ve got an issue, give me a call and Jamie Boychuk’s the same way. So I wish they’d just call me if there’s a challenge.

Bascome Majors — Susquehanna International Group — Analyst

Yeah. Thanks for the candid response, Jim.

Operator

Your next call comes from the line of John Stumpf. Your line is open.

John Stumpf — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Good afternoon. Good evening. Kevin, seems like the earning season’s been pricing powered and obviously, there’s things like accessorials that are helping intermodal but your whole core business has been kind of reset a bit higher on the revenue per carload front. So the question is, what’s the stickiness of some of these price increases that have gone in? And where is the total portfolio set on a contractual basis as we think about maybe the ability to push pricing higher this quarter too?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah, look, gotten a couple of pricing questions already, and I’m going to stick to the script for the most part. It’s a discussion we’re having with our customers. We’re being transparent around the cost pressures that we face and that we expect to cover those costs. But we also want to talk about volume growth with our customers, wallet share, and all those other things. We do have parts of our business that you’re well aware of, coal which moves with the benchmark prices. So we have seen some favorability there. We participate when our customers are participating in a good market, and obviously, when those markets come down, we participate on the other side as well.

Intermodal businesses, some other parts of our business are tied directly to inflation. Metrics in those have moved up and so we’ll see some favorability in those parts of our business that are tied to those indices and those will continue to probably flow through into the fourth quarter and the next year. So we’ll have some momentum there. And then, obviously, this is probably our expectations for inflation in the next year are higher than the previous year, last year. And so we’ll have those discussions and price accordingly. I’ll probably leave it at that.

John Stumpf — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Thanks, Kevin.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Jason Seidl. Your line is open.

Jason Seidl — Cowen — Analyst

Thank you, operator. Afternoon, gentlemen. Congratulations on that impressive OR. I wanted to do drill down a little bit on the comment you made about some onshoring production due to sort of supply chain issues, is that sort of a one-off customer, is this a trend you’re seeing? And then also, are you having customers coming to you telling you that they might change sort of how they run their inventories in the future?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Absolutely. There is — I can think of multiple industries right now, and you’ve seen some announcements from some large producers out there that are making incremental investments in U.S. production. I think they’re looking at the volatility, and how much — how costly it is to get freight from overseas. Labor is less of a component in some of these production facilities than has ever been. So that labor differential moving in here to U.S. doesn’t matter as much. It’s more about having availability to the inventory and the onshore phenomenon. I hope it has legs here. We’re seeing the early signs of that. We’ve seen some big announcements. I hope we’ll see some further announcements coming forward.

And we talked about this with the energy renaissance here a number of years ago when we had cheap energy with gas and oil and the fracking. That never materialized. I think this time, in my opinion, could be different. I think all the things are starting to line for our customers and others to reconsider where they want to have production and more balanced so they don’t run into the same issues that they’re having currently.

Jason Seidl — Cowen — Analyst

And in terms of total inventories, Kevin, are you seeing a change there as well?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

I certainly think there’s more — customers are reevaluating for positioning inventory levels. We’re having those discussions around our TRANSFLO product, so they don’t need next-day shipping or things like that, that they are forward-positioning those things so they can make sure that their production facilities remain up and running. That’s very, very important. So all these factors are I think playing into investments that we’ll see customers make over the next couple of years.

Jason Seidl — Cowen — Analyst

Kevin, I appreciate the color. And gentlemen, thanks for the time as always.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Ben Nolan. Your line is open.

Benjamin Nolan — Stifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Hey. Thanks, guys. I appreciate you fit me in here. I guess I wanted — you were talking a lot about labor and some of the issues that are impacting, but just thinking about maybe the opportunity to actually get a little bit more volume through and specifically, we’ve talked about coal, but curious what your customers are talking about with respect to sort of further ramp up there, and also on the intermodal side, we’ve seen, I mean, the steamships diverting cargoes away from Savannah, for instance, to get into a Jacksonville or other places on the East Coast trying to fit more volume through the system. But I guess the question is how capable are you of accommodating some of those things?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Well, look, you’ve seen the East Coast ports outgrow the West Coast ports for the last number of years. That’s going to continue — ongoing. Savannah is making significant investments, all the ports that we operate into are making investments to be able to handle that. So we’re well-positioned whether it’s Savannah, Charleston, Jacksonville, Tampa, all those locations are areas where we have the ability to serve. So we’re ready to take on volume. We’ve made some investments. Our intermodal network continues to be the best network in the East, operationally. There is no question around that. You just look at the service metrics, look at the growth. We’ve been able to handle that better than anybody else. We will continue to leverage that product into the market.

Benjamin Nolan — Stifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Sure. So there’s not a — no near-term inhabitant to being able to put more volume through some of the network, I guess, is the question.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

We talked about all the capacity. We don’t think —

Benjamin Nolan — Stifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Yeah.

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah. Clearly, we have the rail capacity. We’re well-positioned with all of the ports. And again, it’s not just the international steamship companies that are coming. It’s plastics, imports, exports, it’s — there’s a lot of merchandise business, coke business that we move through these ports as well. And so, yeah, we’re working with them through the transload facilities either our own facilities are partnering with people who are building a big, big, big transload facilities on the — along the coast to be able to handle the capacity. And we clearly, as I said earlier, have 30% room on the railroad to handle the traffic without making any more big investments.

Benjamin Nolan — Stifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

All right. Thanks a lot, guys.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jeff Kauffman. Your line is open.

Jeff Kauffman — Vertical Research Partners LLC — Analyst

Hey. Thanks for squeezing me in and congratulations. Just some questions for Kevin. I’m trying to get used to my model with Quality Carriers here. Your non-locomotive fuel expense was up about $38 million year-on-year, how much of that was attributable to the inclusion of Quality?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Just a little over $20 million.

Jeff Kauffman — Vertical Research Partners LLC — Analyst

Okay. And just one other. The depreciation that was up about $19 million sequentially, but how much of that would have been attributable to Quality?

Kevin Boone — Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Jeff, it’s Sean again. Yeah, about half of that is related to Quality and we’ll see that impact carry forward.

Jeff Kauffman — Vertical Research Partners LLC — Analyst

Okay, that’s all I have. Congratulations. Terrific quarter. Thank you.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time, and this concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for attending. You may now disconnect.

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