CN investing $500 million in technology, including oilsands ‘pucks,’ with eye on driverless truck threat

Image: JWN

Canadian National Railway says it will spend $500 million over the next five years on technology to improve its safety and efficiency while also helping to face the potential challenge of driverless trucks.

Chief executive Luc Jobin told an investor conference Wednesday that the country's largest railway will make the investments to improve its own operations and stay ahead of changes to the trucking sector that will evolve quickly over the next decade.

CN Rail's plan would reduce manual and clerical work. Jobin says the company expects to adjust to pressures on its workforce from digitization mainly through retirements, attrition and retraining.

CN Rail has already implemented some new technologies and is conducting trials on others.

The railway is testing a process called CanaPux to ship heavy crude from the Alberta oilsands to Asia. The process turns the bitumen into semi-solid "pucks" that can be more safely loaded and transported.

CN is also spending $1.2 billion by 2020 to implement Positive Train Control across its network, as mandated by the U.S. government. The system uses wireless communications, GPS and onboard computers to alert conductors about track and speed changes while maintaining a safe separation between trains to avoid collisions.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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