Railinc Tracks Blog

Railinc tracks are everywhere although you don't always see them. The Railinc Tracks blog reveals them one at a time and shows you how we help to keep railroads, railcars and rail shipments moving across America. The blog is staffed by the Railinc Corporate Communication team and will give you news and insights about our company, our people and our products.

Entries with tag freight rail .

Global Conference Panel Features Railinc Analyst

The North American railcar fleet grew by about 27,000 cars through July 2018, adding about 11,000 covered hoppers and 5,000 tank cars. Those were among the takeaways from a recent Railcar and Locomotive Outlook and Overview panel featuring Railinc Sr. Data Scientist Dr. David Humphrey and others at Cowen and Company’s 11th Global Transportation Conference.

The entire panel session is available below and here.

Each year, Humphrey uses Umler data to create demographic profiles of the railcar and locomotive fleets and presents the information at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference in La Quinta, Calif. Companion reports on the railcar and locomotive fleets are available to download for free on the Railinc Research Reports page.


Railinc Names Smemoe Chief Information Officer

Railinc Corp. has promoted Joan Smemoe to the positions of Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Vice President of Information Technology, effective June 11.

Smemoe will be responsible for providing the vision and leadership for Railinc’s data, product development, and information systems platforms. Smemoe—who currently serves on the executive management team—will report to Allen West, president and CEO, in her new position.

“I’m honored to lead our team of highly skilled technologists,” Smemoe said. “At Railinc, we do important, meaningful work in service to the freight rail industry. With powerful, new technological innovations at our disposal, it’s an exciting time to be in a role like this.”

Smemoe joined Railinc in 2006 as a senior software engineer. She has served as a project development manager, senior manager of application engineering, plus she served as director of application engineering and director of Railinc’s project management office.

During her tenure, Smemoe provided technology leadership for important product initiatives, including the AskRail mobile application, the Gateway Operations Services program, and the Component Registry.

“Strong leadership in the CIO role is essential to our ability to serve the freight rail industry and to our success as a technology company,” West said. “For more than a decade, Joan has helped to shape Railinc technologies that are critical to daily freight rail operations. We’re fortunate to have a leader with her technology and industry expertise and deep knowledge of our products become CIO.”

Prior to joining Railinc, Smemoe worked as a senior Java developer at Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. She holds bachelors and master’s degrees in computer science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and was named a 2018 Rising Star by Progressive Railroading magazine.

Railinc Joins Blockchain in Transport Alliance

Railinc has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a consortium of more than 250 transportation and logistics companies that is creating a forum for the development of blockchain technology standards and education for the freight industry.

“Blockchain presents interesting opportunities for the freight rail industry,” said Railinc President and CEO Allen West. “We’re excited to identify ways to add value to our industry as part of this innovative, forward-thinking group working to advance blockchain technology and its transportation and logistics applications.”

BiTA was formed in 2017 by experienced tech and transportation executives with the goal of bringing together leading companies in the freight technology industries that have a vested interest in the development of blockchain technology.

About Blockchain in Transport Alliance
Founded in August 2017, the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) is a forum for promotion, education, and encouragement to develop and adopt blockchain applications in the trucking, transportation, and logistics industry. BiTA’s goal is for members to participate, discuss, create, and adopt industry standard uses of blockchain applications and to provide clarity and direction for the development of blockchain technology in the trucking industry in a manner that will create efficiency, transparency, and foster trust. BiTA standards are intended to create a common framework to help organizations develop and adopt blockchain technology. For more information, visit www.bita.studio.

Customer Success Helps Employees Learn, Grow

Starting in the Customer Success Center (CSC) at Railinc gives employees a solid foundation to build on as they work to reach their career goals. In this guest post, Railinc Customer Success Specialist Karin Bennett talks about the phone calls, the schedule, and the opportunities to learn, grow and make an impact across the company. Click here to find out more about our Railinc Customer Success team.

Before I started working in CSC at Railinc, I saw customer support like most people probably do: a large group of employees in a room answering phone call after phone call — all day, every day.

I do answer a lot of calls—as many as 30 a day—but there’s more to it than just answering the phone.

We're the first point of contact most of our customers have with Railinc. When I'm not answering calls or responding to emails, I work with colleagues across the company to ensure I know our products and services inside and out so I can help make the customer’s experience better.

I don't have a typical day. If I'm not on-call, I get in at 8 a.m. and begin responding to customer emails from the night before. New cases start coming in soon after and include everything from permission requests to unlocking online accounts to questions about error messages a customer might receive when working in our applications.

Beyond responding to phone calls and emails, CSC oversees reviewing permissions requests from customers who want to access our applications. We put each request through a verification process to make sure that customers get the right permissions and that our data are secure. We test applications, keep important industry databases up to date, and play important roles in company-wide disaster recovery exercises.

But we aren't expected to be subject matter experts from the start.

Every Railinc customer success specialist goes through a 90-day training period to learn the basics of all our products and get comfortable interacting with customers. We do things like unlock online accounts, respond to email requests, and send a "morning report" to the entire company that recaps any issues from the last 24 hours, as well as any completed or scheduled product releases. After our first 90 days, we keep learning through product training sessions and shadowing groups throughout the company.

We also work closely with Railinc's product support teams, which provide second-level support, and attend meetings and training for individual product groups. I like shadowing product support because I end up having a greater understanding, not only of the products they support, but of processes that I can repeat with customers to provide quicker support. This training helps us understand Railinc products, keeps us up to date with product releases and lets product groups know about any persistent issues customers have had. It feels good to know that the customer feedback we collect and share is used to improve our products.

Because we provide 24/7 customer support, there is an on-call rotation. For one week every two months, I'm responsible for responding to emergency requests that come in after business hours. While I haven’t experienced an emergency call during my rotation yet, one team member had to facilitate a conference call at 3 a.m. when one of our applications went down. It can be challenging, but it's a reflection of how important a responsive CSC team is to Railinc's work.

It's tough learning the freight rail industry and all our products and services as an entry-level employee, but it positions us well to advance in the company quickly. A lot of our product support employees, managers, business analysts and others started on Railinc's CSC team. The opportunity to grow and advance is just one of many things I like about working in CSC.

Another is flexibility.

It might seem like I’m tethered to my phone and computer during work hours, but I can take advantage of Railinc's flexible work environment, too. I have been able to participate in company events and work from home when there is inclement weather or some other reason I can’t come into the office.

A CSC role isn't for everyone. You need to multi-task. You need to be patient as you figure out what you can to do to help a customer with their challenge. And you need to make sure the customer gets what they need.

At Railinc, our job in CSC is about more than just answering phones. We’re helping build a strong foundation with our customers and supporting the work everyone throughout the company does.


—Karin Bennett

A graduate of North Carolina State University, Karin Bennett joined the Railinc Customer Success team in 2017. Interested in becoming a Customer Success Specialist at Railinc? Apply today.

Railinc's Smemoe Named Rail Industry Rising Star

Railinc Director of Application Engineering and PMO Joan Smemoe has been recognized as a 2018 Rising Star by Progressive Railroading magazine.

The award recognizes individuals under the age of 40 who have made, or are making, a positive impact on their company, organization, department or team, and are viewed by others — peers, colleagues, supervisors, clients or associates — as up-and-coming leaders in the rail industry.

As Railinc’s No. 2 technology officer and a member of the executive management team, Smemoe helps to create the vision, shape the strategy, provide leadership and drive the success of Railinc’s IT operations. She leads the company’s software development and applications engineering across all product groups, guiding more than 100 IT professionals who are responsible for dozens of essential applications that help to keep the North American freight-rail network moving.

Smemoe’s technology leadership and expertise have been integral to the success and impact of Railinc technology solutions and initiatives. These include

  • The AskRail mobile application, which helps to ensure that emergency responders have access to accurate, timely information about railcars carrying hazardous materials when they arrive at the scene of a rail emergency.

  • The Gateway Operations Services program, which is developing traffic management solutions for major rail gateways with a focus on the Chicago Terminal.

  • The Component Registry, which supports the tracking of rail equipment health.

Smemoe, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, joined Railinc in 2006 as a senior software engineer. She has shown progressive growth, moving into leadership roles such as project manager, senior manager and director that have enabled her to shape Railinc technologies that are critical to freight rail industry operations in North America.

Smemoe and the other 2018 Progressive Railroading Rising Stars will be recognized at a dinner in Chicago on July 22. Click here to see a complete list of winners.