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