Much is being made in the railroad industry and other transportation media about the Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) wildfire sweeping from coast to coast. Proponents of PSR will tell you that it will prove to be the industry’s savior. But it also begs the following question; just what does the industry need to be saved from?

According to transportation industry news provider Transport Topics, the combined operating income of the Class I railroads topped $16 billion for the first half of last year, based on company reports. The carriers are now well into their second decade of ever increasing profits, setting new records virtually every year.

So, why the stampede toward PSR? And what does PSR really mean for railroad workers, shippers and the nation as a whole? While everyone seems to have a slightly different definition of PSR, there are a couple of common threads in all the definitions.

What the PSR crowd is in unanimous agreement on is that the process will be driven by maximization of every single asset. That includes even the fixed-point shippers, as Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific eliminated more than 425 domestic and nearly 100 international origin-and-destination interline pairs in just the first six weeks of the year.

As a result, hundreds of locomotives and cars already have been mothballed, and that number will increase into the thousands in the next few years. Dozens of shops and yards have already been closed or are slated to be shuttered.