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Inter-Rail Group News

Inter-Rail Welcomes Team Talladega

Amid COVID disruptions, in July, Inter-Rail was awarded the contract for TDSI’s automotive distribution facility in Talladega, Alabama. Inter-Rail Transport of Talladega crews provide high-quality auto terminal services such as the shuttling and loading of Honda vehicles, as well as performing switching services, mechanical repairs, and pre-trip of multi-level autoracks.

“It has been a goal of ours to increase Inter-Rail’s footprint on the origin side of the automotive business, so we are grateful to TDSI and the American Honda Motor Company for entrusting us as partners,” says CEO Seth Ricketts. “On behalf of the entire Inter-Rail team, I would personally like to thank Bryce Thomas and Phil Peay of TDSI, along with Chris Hodgson and Misty Thompson of Honda for the support they have shown us from the very beginning.” View Full Article Here.

Quarter 1: Game Changer

What now seems like years ago, we were making facility visits around the country and working to make sure we had enough labor to handle the anticipated volume. Then on March 11th, the world as we knew it changed. The Coronavirus pandemic brought automotive production, travel, and most importantly, our normalcy to a screeching halt.

Soon thereafter we were faced with the unimaginable loss of Vice President of Operations, Shawn Emanuel. Not only was Shawn a valuable team member; he was also a great friend to many including myself. I would talk and travel with him so often that my children began to call him their “Crazy Uncle Shawn.” He was one of the best in this industry because he put his time in, he knew this business, and most admirably, he knew the people. Shawn will be missed by all who knew him.

With that, COVID-19 has been a game-changer for all of us in this industry. Our Upper Management Team, with the support of our customers, have worked around the clock to keep our associates safe and protect their jobs, as best a possible. Early on our Management Team decided to take anywhere from 20-25% pay cut to help the company get through this time. Unfortunately, as volume dwindled, we had to make the difficult decision to furlough over 70% of our workforce.

Inter-Rail employs almost 700 associates in 16 states across the nation, so this decision affected the lives of many of our Inter-Rail families. We chose to intentionally furlough based on State and Federal aid relief packages. This decision also allowed us to continue providing benefits to all, so our associates and their families would still have access to medical care and keep their seniority dates.

However, despite all of the distractions around us, I’m proud of how Team Inter-Rail finished the first quarter. After a slow start to the year, both February and March showed increases in manhours and volume for us in comparison to 2019. Our number one goal is to send our associates home in the same condition they arrived. While we failed at that goal, we did finish the first quarter with an injury frequency of 1.19 concerns per 200,000 manhours, which is well below our goal of 1.99.

We also had a rough start to our year, in regards to accidents, as we finished the first quarter with an incident frequency of 10.69. While most incidents were extremely minor, we recognize we must improve our training process as a majority of our incidents were caused by associates with 90-days or less experience. As we have been saying on our weekly Safety Call, this is only a chapter in the book of 2020, not our final story.

This pandemic poses unprecedented challenges, but we are determined to face it with the same vision that has driven Inter-Rail for generations and come out of this stronger. We know that life as we knew it won’t be the same, so we have two choices: either take a step-back or improve. Our Upper Management Team is using this downtime to leverage our commitment to the safety and development of our associates which starts with training. As volume begins to build, we will be rolling out an updated training program to all associates. Additionally, we are taking this time to update our manuals and review SOP’s.

During this unprecedented time, I encourage all to focus on the positives, however difficult that might be. I’m so proud, and thankful, for all the associates at Inter-Rail for their commitment to making us the best in the business. Also thank you to all our customers for the countless calls, updates, and contract changes that have helped retain some normalcy of operations. But I speak for all of us, we are ready to get back on the road and show we are still the best in the business! Until next quarter, have pride every time you put on your IRT blue!

Seth Ricketts, CEO

View Full Article Here.

S.T.O.M.P.-er of the Quarter

Chris Bell of Team Westlake is named Inter-Rail’s S.T.O.M.P.-er of the Quarter.  Bell was hired at Westlake as an Unloader in November of 2016 and has since been promoted to Lead Unloading Supervisor. Regional Manager, Mike Gundersen describes Bell as selfmotivated, safety-oriented, and a great leader.

In January, Chris was chosen as SOTM for his role in identifying a major safety concern on two railcars on separate occasions. Had he not made these observations, and units were unloaded, as usual, multiple damages and potential injuries would have occurred. Instead, Inter-Rail was able to send out a Safety Alert to notify our network of the potential risk.

However, what leveraged Bell to be chosen as SOTQ was his consistent commitment to identifying these safety concerns during the first quarter.  “Chris’s dedication to safety and correctly following procedures 100% of the time has played a crucial part in our excellent safety record this year,” Gundersen wrote. “He is a role model for everyone here on rail, as he strives every day to keep his crew members safe, and is a perfect example of an associate who lives by the S.T.O.M.P. culture every day.”

Congratulations, Chris and thank you for stepping up as a leader at your facility and promoting the S.T.O.M.P. culture.  View All SOTQ Nominees

Developing Our Future Industry Leaders

Inter-Rail Group remains committed to exceeding our customer’s, company’s and industry partner’s expectations by providing quality service through dedicated training and continuous improvement.

To ensure an output of high quality service, we focus on providing our associates with the tools and knowledge needed to be successful. We strongly believe in investing in leadership development training and providing hardworking associates with opportunities for advancement.

This philosophy has proven successful in developing our industry’s future leaders, and has contributed to the overall sustainable strength of our organization. Over the past five years, we have gone from having only 4 Assistant Managers to over 20, all of which were previously Supervisors. Moreover, 85% of our Operations Managers and 95% of Assistant Managers have been promoted from within the company.

“I want to continue to offer and promote careers, not just jobs to each and every associate,” said President, Jim Azpell when asked about his goals for the company. We take our obligation to train and develop our associates seriously so that they will be ready for advancement when the opportunity arises.  To prepare our associates for this transition, Inter-Rail offers leadership development training company-wide.

The training course is led by General Manager, Larry Holmquist. Having over 28 years of experience in the industry, and having also built his career with Inter-Rail, starting out as an Unloader, he uses his experiences to engage and motivate associates who want to make this a career.

“The part I enjoy most about teaching the course is being able to share the knowledge of the unloading business that I have obtained over the years, and the opportunities this company has provided to me and my family,” says Holmquist.

The training course rotates through each region, at least once a year, inviting current Managers, Assistant Managers, Supervisors, or other motivated associates interested in a leadership role to attend. The objective of the training is to give future leaders the tools and knowledge needed to not only strengthen and sustain a successful team, but their personal lives as well. The course reviews topics such as the skills needed to be an effective manager and tips to enhance the culture at a facility, as well as paper work and budget training. View Full Article Here.

Leadership Team Promotions

“Inter-Rail is blessed to have had several growth opportunities recently, and I am proud that 100% of these positions were filled from within,” says Inter-Rail Group President, Jim Azpell. “Each member brings new experiences and diversity to our team. Becoming complacent is not just a facility hazard, but can also affect a company from a leadership standpoint. We now have fresh voices and ideas that will only continue to challenge and push our team to new and exciting levels of commitment and service.”  View Full Article Here.

Remembering the Heart of Inter-Rail

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden passing of one of our beloved Inter-Rail family members, Shawn Emanuel. On Friday, April 10, Shawn passed away at the age of 49.  He began his career at the age of 18 as an Unloader with Inter-Rail, and over the years became a familiar face within the industry. Inter-Rail was fortunate to have Shawn rejoin the company in 2012 as a Training and Resource Manager, and since then he held the positions of General Manager, Sr. General Manager, and most recently Vice President of Operations.

Shawn was a valuable member of our team, and undeniably one of the most beloved associates at Inter-Rail. We would not be the company we are today without him. His knowledge of the field, his unique leadership style, and his ability to interface with customers was invaluable.  Shawn was an advocate, mentor, and most importantly a friend, to all at Inter-Rail, and many others in our industry. Anyone could lean on him for advice, and he could always be relied on for a good laugh.

While our Inter-Rail family will miss him terribly, we know Shawn would want us to continue with business as usual. A famous quote of his was, “I assure you, with or without me, they are going to unload railcars tomorrow.” With that, we are committed to living out his legacy by continuing to provide quality service to our customers and making Inter-Rail the best in the industry, all while remembering to have a little fun in the process.

Shawn was a loving father and is survived by his daughter, Lindsey, son, Wyatt, and step-son Alec, his two granddaughters, Mila and Evie, and his sweet pup, Laila. We ask that you please keep his family and many friends in your thoughts and prayers. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. View Full Article Here.

2020 AAR Destination Quality Review

Scores like this aren’t possible without the relentless efforts by our associates, local and upper management. We thank our customers for inviting us to AAR training classes and the AAR, who are always willing to coach and do all that they can to make our industry safer.


AAR Destination Quality Review

Inter-Rail Group closed 2019 out with an AAR Destination Quality Review average of 99.40% after receiving 20 audits.  Scores like this aren’t possible without the relentless efforts by our associates, local and upper management. We thank our customers for inviting us to AAR training classes and the AAR, who are always willing to coach and do all that they can to make our industry safer.

Injury Frequency

Our team finished 2019 with a 1.33 injury frequency— making this the safest year in Inter-Rail Group history!  Our number one goal was to achieve an injury frequency of 1.99 or lower, on a concerns per 200,000 man hours frequency.  This had never been accomplished before in our 40 year history. While we are proud of this accomplishment, we are focused on the future and remain committed to our obligation to our customers and their products to provide quality service by putting the safety of our associates at the forefront.


AAR Destination Quality Review for Multi-Level Spotting

After seven AAR Destination Quality Review audits, Inter-Rail Group received an average of 100% on the multi-level spotting procedures section. As reflected in our 2019 audit scores, we are committed to providing our customers with high-quality, safe switching services.