Skip to main content

Big wheels keep NS operations turning

Chad Cummins, material truck driver, sits behind the wheel of NS’ new Brandt R4 truck.


Given the work and the conditions they operate in, the trucks in Norfolk Southern’s Engineering Department fleet can get beat up and dirty in a hurry. At the Safety and Service Expo, engineering employees got to show off some of their work trucks while they were still new and shiny.

“This is the latest and greatest equipment we’ve got,” said Lake Division truck operator Chad Cummins, proud driver of a new 2013 Brandt R4 hi-rail material truck. Cummins operates the truck over road and rail to deliver railcars of crossties, rail, and other track material to maintenance-of-way track gangs.

“You can couple up cars from the front or the rear and basically use the truck like a locomotive,” Cummins said. The truck features a 600-horsepower engine and 50,000 pounds of tractive effort, powerful enough to safely haul around seven loaded railcars. A 28-foot boom mounted on the back has a magnet for picking up rail spikes and tie plates and a grapple for hoisting crossties. NS has two of the new 2013 models, which sell for about $900,000, in its fleet of 11 Brandt trucks.

“It’s a lot more technologically advanced – everything is computerized,” Cummins said. “It’s a Cadillac compared with what we used to have.”

Pictured is the new Brandt truck.

Mike Waits, system manger vehicle fleet
administration, stands beside the Toyota 4Runner hi-rail.

Nearby, Mike Waits, system manager vehicle fleet administration, was extolling the virtues of NS’ new Toyota 4Runner hi-rail SUV. The 4Runners are new to NS’ fleet, and the company is purchasing five of them in 2014. They will be used primarily by division and assistant division engineers and C&S supervisors to travel their territory and visit work sites.

The 4Runner is the only SUV currently designed with the kind of body frame and payload NS needs to mount and support the approximately 1,000-pound hi-rail gear. The SUVs that NS once used, such as the Durango, have been redesigned as family cars and are no longer compatible with hi-rail gear, Waits said.

The 4Runner offers NS a more fuel-efficient and comfortable vehicle than crew cab pickups, the company’s other option for a passenger vehicle with hi-rail capability.

“The fuel efficiency is a huge selling point,” Waits said. “Over the life of the vehicle, it should pretty much offset the cost of the hi-rail gear.”

Pictured is a new Toyota 4Runner, outfitted with hi-rail gear.