ICYMI: Alan Shaw to Saporta Report, ‘We’re not done. We’re going to continue to get better.’

Aug 14, 2023 | Corporate Member News

Alan Shaw on the terrace outside his office with the Atlanta skyline behind him and looking over the Georgia Tech campus. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

On August 14, the SaportaReport featured a conversation with Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw. In the article, “Norfolk Southern’s Alan Shaw: ‘We’re not done. We’re going to continue to get better’,” Shaw discussed the company’s safety enhancements, headquarters relocation to Atlanta, strategic vision, and even how important his family is in his role as President and CEO. 

Select excerpts from the conversation follow below. The full article is available online

Gold standard for safety

“Norfolk Southern is going to lead the industry.” Norfolk Southern has announced a six-point safety plan, which includes more hotbox detectors, more research and development for hotbox detectors, and it is partnering with Georgia Tech on a next-generation machine visioning train inspection portal that uses automated intelligence to find potential safety issues.

“We can always get better at safety,” Shaw said. “There is no end game with safety. Last year, the number of derailments on Norfolk Southern was the lowest in two decades, But I know we can do better, and we’re doing better again this year. “

Relocation to Atlanta

“The move to Atlanta has driven alignment,” Shaw said. Before moving from Norfolk to Atlanta, Norfolk Southern’s key businesses were in three different cities.

“A well-functioning railroad is going to have really close alignment between marketing, operations, finance and human resources, but they were in three different places,” Shaw said.

By moving to Atlanta, Shaw said they knew they would “have to up our game” to attract a diverse and technology-savvy workforce.

“That’s what we’ve done,” Shaw said. “Atlanta brings a bunch of other benefits as well. It’s a community unlike any other in which I’ve lived in that the business community works very, very well with the public sector.”

Shaw was especially complimentary of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, and he said it’s important for Norfolk Southern to give back to the community. The company’s annual philanthropic budget has doubled — from $9.1 million to $18.2 million. And the railroad’s executives are getting involved in the community.

Strategic vision

For Shaw, it’s important for Norfolk Southern to stay true to its strategic vision and its transformation from a commodities-based business to one serving a consumer-oriented market that can compete with trucks while being a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

He says the goal of its intermodal business is to provide the simplicity of trucks and the efficiency of rail in a sustainable way. Plus, he said railroads are far safer than trucks in moving hazardous materials.

Accountability at work and at home

“My family got exposed to a lot of things associated with East Palestine,” Shaw said. One of the things that kept me going and got me up every morning was not only keeping my promises to our employees, our customers, our shareholders and the communities we serve, including East Palestine. But also I realized I was a role model for NS and my family. My family got exposed to this and they’re watching to see if I’m keeping my promises and doing the right thing.”

“That’s the ultimate accountability because I have to go home every night and look at them in the face,” Shaw said. “They’ve got to know that I’m doing the right thing. They’re proud of what I’m doing. But I’m very clear to them. We’re not done. We’re going to continue to get better.”

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