Skip to main content

Annual Meeting of Shareholders 2021

May 13, 2021


Remarks by

James A. Squires
Chairman, President and CEO
Norfolk Southern Corporation

Since we last gathered, Norfolk Southern has made tremendous progress in a year defined by resilience. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our field employees and the dedication of our entire NS team, we have continued operating safely and reliably throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite inherent challenges, we’ve advanced our long-term strategic goals to build a faster, more efficient, and technologically innovative railroad. We’ve reduced our company’s resource needs, exercised strong financial discipline, and achieved consistent operating ratio improvement.

We’re now accelerating our implementation of precision scheduled railroading principles to drive the productivity and efficiency of our organization even further, helping us better serve customers, support growth, and drive long-term value.

With a leaner workforce and fewer, more fuel-efficient locomotives pulling longer, heavier trains, our added efficiencies are reducing operating expenses, providing cash to reinvest in our network and reward our shareholders. With a resurgent economy, volumes and operating revenues are on the rise, and we are well-positioned to meet increased market demand.

Consistent with these conditions and our commitment to provide superior shareholder value, we repurchased more than $1.4 billion in company shares, and in January our board of directors approved increased dividend distributions.

Having made significant progress in our company’s transformation, technology remains at the center of our strategy. We are moving quickly to lead the industry in innovation, launching our “Digital | NS” initiative, and building the digital railroad of the future. Mobile applications, artificial intelligence, and mathematical models are all at work across our organization to enhance safety and increase productivity.

We’re paying close attention to the evolving supply chain needs of our customers, using our technological capabilities to improve the customer experience, and better aligning our definition of success with their own.

We have goals that range from short-term, practical improvements in daily operations to long-term, aspirational “moonshot” projects that will transform our company and the rail industry. Regardless of their scope, these technology investments reflect our company’s pursuit of operational excellence as well as a deep commitment to sustainability as core to our business. For example, by adopting smart operating practices and energy management technologies, we achieved record locomotive fuel-efficiency in 2020.

We expect this trend to continue in the year ahead, and are excited to move forward with our transition to diesel-electric hybrid cranes at our intermodal facilities, advance plans to further reduce fuel consumption, and develop our science-based target to reduce emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

By combining these measures with innovative initiatives such as our industry-first issuance of Green Bonds, we’re partnering with our customers and investors to reduce our respective carbon footprints and business costs while pursuing responsible growth.

Operating our business sustainably also requires prioritizing the well-being of people. Led by company-wide efforts such as our creation of an NS Inclusion Leadership Council, we are committed to making diversity a competitive advantage. By leveraging our differences, we drive collaboration and inspire innovation.

With great determination, the NS team continues to advance our strategic goals and build on the progress of the past year. As a result, we achieved yet another company quarterly record operating ratio of 61.5% in the first quarter of 2021.

With improving economic conditions and positive trends across our first-quarter financial metrics, we remain confident in our ability to deliver a great 2021 to shareholders.

We have many reasons to be optimistic about Norfolk Southern’s future. We’re especially eager to complete the move into our new corporate headquarters in Atlanta – a state-of-the-art facility that recently received the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Best in Real Estate” award for design.

Atlanta is a diverse, talent-rich technology-hub with world-class talent, and the city is ideally suited for our innovative and inclusive culture. Our new headquarters will promote the health and well-being of our employees, empower collaboration, and help create a lasting competitive advantage for our company.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together in the past year, and we’re eager to move forward with a highly anticipated year of growth and progress.

Thank you for your participation in today’s meeting and thank you for your investment in Norfolk Southern.