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CSX Corporation (NASDAQ:CSX)
Q3 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Oct. 16, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the CSX Corporation Third Quarter 2018 Earnings Call. As a reminder, today's call is being recorded. During this call, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation, we will be conducting a question-and-answer session. To ask a question, press "*1". For opening remarks and introduction, I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Kevin Boone, Chief Investor Relations Officer for CSX Corporation.

Kevin Boone -- Chief Investor Relations Officer

Thank you, Shirley, and good afternoon, everyone. Joining me on today's call is Jim Foote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Frank Lonegro, Chief Financial Officer, and Mark Wallace, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing. On Slide 2 is our forward-looking disclosure, followed by non-GAAP disclosure on Slide 3. With that, it is my pleasure to introduce our President and Chief Executive Officer, Jim Foote.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thank you so much, Kevin. And thank you everyone who's on the call. We are very excited about the strong performance of the railroad. Incredible things can be done by incredible people. The CSX workforce is proving every day that they are not going to take a backseat to anyone when it comes to running a safe, customer-focused, and efficient railroad.

I want to give a special shout-out to the operating team that positioned our assets out of harm's way in advance of the recent hurricanes and to Richard Johnson and all the engineering folks that did an amazing job in getting us back up and running with minimal delay in the aftermath of both storms.

Before moving to third quarter results, I'd like to comment on a few initiatives we worked on in the third quarter. First, we made changes to the organizational structure in our operating department, which pushed more real-time decision making to the field. Our management team has embraced the change and I am encouraged by the early positive results and momentum it has delivered.

Second, we announced new major initiatives at our Northwest Ohio intermodal terminal. This facility functioned as a sorting facility under the previous hub-and-spoke strategy. We will now leverage this asset and its important strategic location as a traditional intermodal terminal to drive new revenue opportunities. As part of our plan, we are working with Northpoint Development to establish a logistics park adjacent to the terminal. This logistics center will require no capital from CSX.

We also announced a new haulage agreement with BNSF that enhances western access to the facility and we are working on expanding access from East Coast ports. I believe these initiatives will drive long-term growth opportunities to CSX.

Now, let's get to the results. I said it last quarter and I'll say it again today. Two words sum up everything: great performance. Nothing unusual. Again, these numbers are straightforward. EPS increased 106% to $1.05 versus $0.51 last year. Operating income growth of nearly 50%, combined with the lower tax rate and 6% fewer outstanding shares, contributed to the significant year-over-year increase.

Our operating ratio improved 970 basis points to 58.7, a substantial improvement and a record third quarter for CSX. The operating results are highlighted by 14% top-line growth, including 4% volume growth combined with lower expenses despite much higher fuel costs.

Let's turn to Slide 6. Revenue increased 14% as volume, price, fuel surcharge, and supplemental revenues all contributed to positive growth this quarter. Looking at the business segments, each was impacted by positive price and fuel recovery.

Merchandise revenues grew 12% this quarter, helped somewhat by lapping some of the service issues last year. Nearly every end market saw a double-digit increase with the exception of Fertilizers, which was impacted by a previously disclosed customer shutdown. I am encouraged by the broad-based growth across this portfolio.

Coal revenues increased 14%, with strength in our export business offsetting domestic utility weakness. We also saw good growth in our Steel and Industrial businesses. In Intermodal, we saw growth from both price and volume. Finally, in Other Revenues, similar to previous quarters, we saw in increase in supplemental fees, including demurrage.

On the next slide, Slide 7, let's take a look at our safety performance. The safety of our employees is my No. 1 priority. As you can see in these charts, we made some good progress this quarter and we need to sustain this momentum. The personal injury rate this quarter is encouraging but we must improve our train accident rate. As I have mentioned, we have an initiative under way to drive further improvement. We had a strong turnout by employees in our recent safety survey, which is a good sign of employee involvement. I will continue to prioritize safety above everything else and expect us to make further progress.

On the next slide, Slide 8, on the efficiency and service slide, train velocity and dwell both saw improvement, significant improvement over last year, and they are also much better than last quarter. Velocity improved 28% and dwell improved 26%, both on a year-over-year basis. Cars online continues to tread lower, down almost 14% year-over-year despite volume increasing 4%. This really shows the improved asset utilization we are achieving.

And you can see our trip plan compliance. This is a very important measure, as it reflects not only the railroad's operating performance, but most importantly, how we are performing from a reliability standpoint for our customers. We have seen an improvement of 26% from the first quarter to the third quarter of this year. And we just started measuring this in 2018. While we have made good progress, there is plenty of room to improve.

Now, let me hand it off to Frank who will take you through the financials and operating improvements in greater detail.

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jim, and good afternoon, everyone. Before walking through the financials, we've gotten a number of questions on hurricane impacts so let me give you a quick summary.

The most significant impact from Hurricane Florence was the loss of over five miles of track due to numerous wash-outs from flooding. As a result, the majority of the financial impact was capital in nature, which I'll discuss in a few moments. In terms of the P&L, we estimate the EPS impact to be about $0.02 in the quarter, similar to Hurricane Irma in last year's third quarter, with most of the impact attributed to lost or deferred revenue.

With respect to last week's Hurricane Michael, given the location of the landfall and the speed of the storm, we do not expect the impact to be significant in the fourth quarter.

Turning to Slide 10, I'll walk you through the summary income statement. Reported revenue was up 14% in the third quarter, driven by 4% more volume and revenue per unit gains of 9% off higher fuel recoveries, favorable mix, and core pricing gains, as well as higher Other Revenue.

The overall pricing environment remained strong in the quarter, with healthy demand levels, tight trucking capacity, higher fuel prices, and supportive export coal benchmarks, combined with an improved CSX service product.

As in the first and second quarters, pricing for merchandise and intermodal contracts that renewed in the third quarter was particularly strong. Other Revenue increased year-over-year, reflecting the benefit of higher demurrage and storage charges. We still expect Other Revenue to be in the $130 million to $140 million range for the fourth quarter, though likely toward the higher end of that range.

Moving to expenses, total operating expenses were 2% lower in the third quarter, reflecting the benefits of scheduled railroading, as expenses were favorable year-over-year even with higher volumes, higher fuel prices, and the impacts of inflation.

Labor and fringe expense decreased $30 million or 4% year-over-year, as average headcount was down 8% despite 4% more volume. The smaller labor footprint spans both operating and G&A departments.

On the operating side, significant year-over-year improvements in velocity, on-time originations and arrivals, and trip plan compliance led to significantly fewer active trains and crew starts, yielding a 20% improvement in train crew efficiency as measured by GTMs per active train and engine employee. Non-productive recrews, an indicator of network fluidity, also improved by 58%.

Shifting to mechanical support labor, the active locomotive count was down 12% year-over-year, including an active fleet reduction of over 300 engines since the end of Q2. We now have over 800 locomotives in storage in addition to the hundreds of engines we've sold, scrapped, or returned since the beginning of last year. The smaller fleet, along with freight car repair efficiencies, help drive an 11% year-over-year decrease in our mechanical craft workforce.

Our G&A headcount also continues to decline, as we look for every opportunity to absorb attrition. With these operational and G&A labor efficiencies, plus the contractor workforce reductions I'll discuss in a moment, we have nearly achieved the full-year 2,000 total resource reduction goal we set out on our January call.

MS&O expense was lower by 9% versus the prior year. From an operational perspective, improved service levels combined with resource and asset efficiencies also yielded MS&O savings. Material savings attributed to the smaller locomotive fleet are complemented by our decision to store units that are less reliable. The decisions we've made around storage, combined with additional fleet reliability efforts, drove a 34% year-over-year improvement in our locomotive out-of-service measure and further reduced costs related to materials and contracted locomotive maintenance services.

Looking at non-labor costs associated with our train crews, the reduction in both road crew starts and recrews yielded lower hotel and taxi costs.

Additionally, MS&O continues to benefit from our efforts to streamline contractors and consultants, particularly in our technology department. Similar to recent quarters, results benefited from line sale and real estate gains that were $52 million higher than the prior year. We are continuing to monetize our surplus assets and are making good progress toward our $300 million target for cumulative real estate sales through 2020, along with the potential for upside from line sale proceeds. We continue to have a strong pipeline of real estate and line sale opportunities, though the impact of these transactions will continue to be uneven from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year.

Looking at the other expense items, depreciation increased slightly due to the impact of larger net asset base. Fuel expense was up 31%, primarily due to a 27% increase in the per gallon price and increased volumes, though we were pleased to achieve record fuel efficiency in the quarter. We will drive further fuel savings through continued improvement in network fluidity and the increased utilization of fuel optimization processes and technologies.

Equipment rent expense declined 18%, driven by significantly improved car cycle times as we continue to see strong year-over-year and sequential service improvements.

Equity earnings were favorable, primarily due to the impact of the lower tax rate at our affiliates. We still expect equity earnings of affiliates of $20 million to $25 million in Q4.

Looking below the line, interest expense increased, primarily due to the additional debt we issued earlier this year, partially offset by a lower weighted average coupon rate. Tax expense was lower in the quarter, even with significantly better pre-tax earnings, reflecting the continued benefit of tax reform.

Our effective tax rate was 22.3% in the quarter, slightly lower than prior guidance, mainly due to the settling of state tax matters. Absent unique items, we expect our effective rate to be in line with prior guidance of around 24.5% for the fourth quarter.

Closing out the P&L, as Jim mentioned in his opening remarks, CSX delivered operating income of nearly $1.3 billion, third quarter record operating ratio of 58.7%, and earnings per share of $1.05.

Turning to the cash side of the equation on Slide 11, year-to-date capital investments are lower by 15%. While we remain on track for the three-year $4.8 billion capital target, we now expect 2018 capital investments of about $1.7 billion, up from the prior target of $1.6 billion. The incremental capital spending is being used to accelerate positive train control, fund additional investments in positive return projects, and pay for repairs related to Hurricane Florence.

The reduced capital intensity of the scheduled railroading model, the substantial core earnings -- progress detailed on the prior slide -- and the benefits of tax reform helped drive a 55% increase in year-to-date adjusted free cash flow, resulting in nearly 100% free cash flow conversion of net income. This significant improvement in free cash flow generation helped drive a nearly 50% increase in shareholder returns. We executed $1 billion of share repurchases in the third quarter and have now completed over $3 billion of the current $5 billion buyback authority and remain on pace to complete the program by the end of Q1 2019.

As we have stated throughout the year, the CSX Board will continue to evaluate cash deployment and shareholder returns on an annual basis.

With that, let me turn it back to Jim for his closing remarks.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thanks, Frank. Turning to Slide 13 and wrapping it up, on a kind of a forward-looking basis, on last quarter's call, I said we were expecting revenue growth for this year to be in the mid-single digit range. We are now looking for full-year growth to be 6% to 8%. Clearly, we are doing better than we expected coming into the year. A lot of it is due to the continued strength of export coal, but all of our business groups are doing well.

On the intermodal side, we have made significant strides in reengineering our franchise to get where I believe we need to be to drive sustainable, profitable growth. Our customers understand what we are trying to accomplish and are engaged with us to make our intermodal product better.

As I sit here today, only eight months since our investor conference, by almost any measure, we are ahead of where I thought we would be. This team has delivered significant value to our customers and our shareholders by running the railroad better and better every day. I am proud of what has been accomplished and encouraged about all the opportunity in front of us. Our goal of making CSX the best run railroad in North America is clearly attainable.

Let's turn it back to Kevin.

Kevin Boone -- Chief Investor Relations Officer

All right. Thank you, Jim. In the interest of trying to get to everyone, I will ask that the analysts limit themselves to one question and one follow-up if needed. Shirley, we will now take questions. Thank you.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. We will now begin conducting a question-and-answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press "*1". To withdraw your question, you may press "*2". Again, press "*1" to ask a question. And one moment, please, for our first question.

Our first question comes from Allison Landry with Credit Suisse. You may ask your question.

Allison Landry -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hi. Good afternoon. Thanks for taking my question. I wanted to ask about the revenue per RTM trends this quarter. It looks like it was up a little more than 3% and for the first time you've seen since 2Q '17. So, I just wanted to understand what's driving that, if it's mix, price, a combination thereof, and if there's an impact that we should be thinking about or if this helps us to understand the success of PSR so far.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

So, I missed the last one. But the RTM growth that we saw in Q3 is a combination of everything. So, strong pricing environment, mix, and volume. So, yeah. And I missed the last part of your question.

Allison Landry -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

I was asking about if this tells us something about where you are with the success or progress of precision railroading so far.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

I would say yes. Clearly, we are doing very well. And service is excellent. The pricing environment is very, very good. Customers are moving more freight back to the railroad and that is a trend that will continue.

Allison Landry -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you for the time.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Allison, it's Jim. I mean, clearly, part of our strategy here is to price appropriately for the service that we're providing. And to the extent that PSR gives you a better product to sell, you're going to recognize higher prices as we go forward.

Allison Landry -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Okay, perfect. That's really helpful. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Chris Wetherbee with Citi. You may ask your question.

Chris Wetherbee -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Hey, thanks, guys. Thanks for taking the question. I wanted to talk a little bit about OR expectations as we move forward. Obviously, the operating ratios performed extremely well over the course of the last couple of quarters. I guess, Jim, as you're sitting here thinking about what you're doing on the intermodal side, can you put that into context with sort of your 60 OR target that is out there? Maybe how you think about the timing of getting toward that and maybe the sustainability of these very good margins that we're seeing? I guess I'm just trying to get a sense of sort of how far along in that progress you are. You mentioned you're ahead of what you expected to be several months ago. I don't know if there's sort of a new way to think about the opportunity set going forward.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I guess as I was trying to get to without being too specific, because we're not going to be too specific -- today, anyway -- eight months ago, we put out a target to have a 60 operating ratio in three years. And I think at that point in time, everybody thought we were crazy, that that couldn't be done. And now we've come in with two consecutive quarters in a row, although it's not industry-leading, right there with anybody else in the industry. And as I have said on the last few quarters, I have a little more confidence that we can hit a 60 operating ratio in three years when we're kind of there today. But in no way, shape, or form is that indicative of the fact that we've run out of opportunities.

We're just -- as I said, I'm comfortable with the reengineering steps that we've taken to date on our intermodal business, but we're holding back, because we made a commitment to our customers we wouldn't make any kind of dramatic changes until after peak season, we're holding back and we're going to be doing some more work that were already discussed with our customers, in terms of some line rationalizations, some terminal consolidations, and what we're talking about with Northwest Ohio. We're committed to growing that business. But we're going to grow that business in a logical process that is sustainable and profitable for us, all of which gives us opportunities to further reduce our operating ratio as we go forward. So, a ton of opportunity ahead of us. And so hang in there and see what we can do for you next quarter.

Chris Wetherbee -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Okay. I appreciate it. Thanks for the color. And then just a quick follow-up on the pricing side. I know you don't give a core pricing metric anymore but, Jim, you've been helpful in terms of characterizing the pricing environment over the last couple of quarters. I just wanted to get your thoughts on 3Q, maybe as it stands relative to the last couple of quarters.

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, Chris, what we said in our prepared remarks was that the renewals continue to be strong. And certainly in comparison to a same-store sales type of a measure, they continue to be elevated against that benchmark. We restructure contracts from time to time. We did have one that was a little less than we would like but other than that one, you would have seen a continued sequential increase in same-store sales.

So, yeah, the environment's really good. The backdrop macro is really good. The service product is really good. As Jim mentioned, Mark's got his team fully engaged in driving forward and really thinking about what we're going to do in the next couple of quarters, getting into 2019. The normal escalators, like ALIF and RCAF and things of that nature, all look pretty strong quarter-over-quarter so those are also helpful as we think about contracts that are longer term in nature. So, nothing's really changed from what we told you last quarter.

Chris Wetherbee -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Okay. Perfect. Thanks for the time. I appreciate it.

Operator

And your next question comes from Brian Ossenbeck with J.P. Morgan. You may ask your question.

Brian Ossenbeck -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hey, good afternoon. Thanks for taking my question. Jim, can you give us a little bit more context about -- just in general, you're not going to give too many details today you said on the intermodal side. But just what are some of the challenges and the opportunities of making these adjustments, given that CSX had a stand-alone entity in intermodal, and maybe compared to when you were at CN? And where do you think the margin profile can actually go over time? Can it get to the corporate average at CSX?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'll take that second part of your question first. I think so. My history at CN was that that's what we did. We took it from the slowest dog to the middle of the pack. And I firmly believe that if you believe in your franchise and you believe in the quality of your product, that you can sell that as a value-added service to your customers and not just as a commodity that's going to trade in the marketplace based on price. And I think, based on capacity and everything else that's an issue with our channel partners, we bring to the trucking industry and those people that use intermodal a tremendous product with a tremendous value. And we still have a long way to go to get that franchise right.

Part of the process is disassembling the old independent structure of the company because it's not an independent company. It's part and parcel of the railroad. Those trains run on the railroad. They don't run on the intermodal railroad. They run on the railroad. So, all of that work goes toward us building a much more efficient, highly effective, and better quality product for the customers and that's what going to drive the growth and that's what's going to improve the profitability of the business segment.

Brian Ossenbeck -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Okay. Great. Thanks. And then, Frank, can you just give us an update on export coal for 4Q? It seems like it's running at the run rate you had mentioned last time and, if you can, give us the mix of thermal and met, or at least some characteristics of that would be helpful.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah. So, Mark speaking. Export coal, we believe heading into the back half of the year or Q4 of the year, is going to remain very strong. Demand is still very strong. Benchmarks are still very strong. And so we think we are going to see a continued strength in our export coal business here heading into the end of the year.

Brian Ossenbeck -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks, Mark.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Amit Mehrotra with Deutsche Bank. You may ask your question.

Amit Mehrotra -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Thanks, operator. Congrats on the very strong results. I feel like I've been saying that a lot to you guys this year. Jim, export coal has obviously -- just following up on the last question -- obviously been highly accommodative, which has helped this year's performance as well. So, as we think about walking the operating ratio from 2018 to 2019, how much of the improvement we could see will be predicated on what export coal volumes do next year, just given how much growth we've seen this year in the business? I'm just trying to calibrate our expectations, my expectations, for what the improvement could be in '19 given maybe some of the idiosyncratic events for this year related to export coal. Thanks.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I would say it's more of the what if something happens to coal and what would the impact be on our performance going forward as opposed to -- I mean, it's not like we're going to add another 40% more export coal tonnage to the railroad and, voila, we're going to have a mid-50 operating ratio. So, we're assuming, and have assumed during the planning process, we'll probably -- based upon where we stand right now, things on a forward-looking basis for export coal into '19 look pretty good. And that will be what we'll base our plan on. And we'll continue to look for ways to become more efficient. As I said, it's much more of an issue of what would be -- how fast and how effectively can we pivot and react in the event something happened to the coal business and that's something that, as of right now, that would just be speculating. But we need to maintain a healthy coal business going forward because it has a meaningful impact on it. But if something happens to the export coal markets where they soften up a little bit, we'll pivot and we'll adjust, just like all good precision-scheduled railroads do.

Amit Mehrotra -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Yeah. I guess you're just going to be at 60 OR this year. I wonder if you're looking at the business -- I'm sure you're looking at the business many ways -- but one way you're looking at is what the underlying margins of the business are doing ex- the growth we've seen in export coal volumes. And maybe that's the reason the 2020 target should actually be 60% given the fluid nature of those cargos or that freight.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Without commenting on your 60 number there either this year or in 2020, when we look at the underlying business, the margins on the business segments are all improving independently, not just because export coal is having a good run.

Amit Mehrotra -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay. If I could just ask one quick follow-up, one of the big pieces of the cost structure that you guys have been able to leverage is obviously the number of employees and employee headcount was down another, I guess, almost 8% in the quarter. As your volume guidance is going up -- I'm sorry, your revenue guidance is going up, should we expect a flatter employee headcount into '19 and '20 or will you still be able to kind of leverage that and see higher revenue and lower number of employees?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we will continue to be more and more efficient, however you want to measure it, on a GTM basis, on an RTM basis, on a carload basis. And our plan will be to continue to see a reduction in the headcount. Like I said, we're not in a position right now -- again, we said in January or February, we're going to take 2,000 employees out of the company this year. We already got 2,000 employees out of the company this year. Will we have a target for employee reductions, employee efficiency next year? Yes. And what that number is, at the right time, we'll articulate it to you and we will continue to become, on a per unit basis, more and more efficient all the time. However, when we get to the point -- and, again, a lot of that has to do with the attrition rate and how we manage the expectations of our employees through this process. But when we get to the point where we need to handle the volume, we're not going to run ourselves out of a couple of brakemen here and there to screw up the railroad. So, we'll pivot. We'll adjust. There are certain points on a railroad today where you need employees in one location and you have excess in another. So you're always managing your workforce appropriately and we'll do that on a go-forward basis.

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

You should expect, obviously, when the business comes in merchandise and intermodal, we've got ample capacity on those trains to be able to add it with very high incremental margins. If it comes in unit train commodities, certainly the margins there are good and you would want us to add any additional resources we needed to be able to handle that. But I think, to Jim's point, you should expect us to continue to leverage resource efficiencies over time and our business is going to continue to grow. That was part and parcel of the framework that we laid out for you at the investor conference in March.

Amit Mehrotra -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Right. Thanks for taking my question, guys. Congrats. Have a good one.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Ken Dexter with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. You may ask your question.

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hey, good afternoon. I'm going to guess that's me. It's Ken Hoexter. Hey, great job. But if we can just touch on the efficiency there, Frank or Jim, you talked about more room. Is there more room on the equipment reductions as well? Or now that you've put all the locomotives aside and the cars, is that kind of the end of the equipment side of your efficiency gain?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Again, we took out 300 this time, this quarter. We're always -- again, we're at -- in the quarter, I don't know what the velocity -- 17.8, 17.9, something like that. That's way behind the industry leader. Way behind the industry leader. Since then, now we're up around 19. Still way behind the industry leader. As we improve velocity, as we improve throughput, as we improve all aspects of the railroad, what does it do? It creates capacity, i.e. takes out locomotives. So, we'll continue to take out locomotives. We'll continue to take out railcars. We'll continue to free up capacity across the railroad and in the terminals because we will drive more and more efficiency and fluidity in the network.

So, therefore, again, that's why the employee count goes down. Employee count goes down because we need fewer -- for example, 30 fewer locomotives for every mile an hour we can improve on velocity. So, having 30 fewer locomotives means you need fewer people to maintain the locomotives, which means you need fewer facilities to maintain the locomotives, and on and on and on and on and on and on. Fewer cars online, get them offline, get them moving, fewer people to maintain the cars, fewer inventories. So, that's the nature of the game here is continuing to drive throughput. And as I said, in terms of dwell, we're not the leader in dwell. We're not the leader in terms of velocity. But we will be. And as we do that, we'll free up and shift more and more assets.

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

That's really great detail and insight. I truly appreciate that. Frank, maybe another one. I just want to clarify something you said earlier. You said there was a contract that you didn't get what you wanted. Excluding that, I think you said rates would have been up sequentially. Maybe if you can just kind of clarify or detail what you were saying there, in terms of what was going on with rates. I don't know if that was including a bad contract or something.

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Ken, you summarized it perfectly. Absent that one restructuring deal that we did last year, same-store sales would have been up sequentially Q2 to Q3.

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

So, that was last year? That wasn't one that just happened that you're seeing rates deteriorating or anything?

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

That's correct. That's before foot and before water.

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Very important clarification. Thank you.

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Obviously, we're talking merch and intermodal revenue.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We just have to live with it. We don't have to be happy about it.

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay. Okay. And then just a follow-up. Maybe, Jim, if you can detail kind of what you're doing on intermodal. I mean, you talked about holding off until after peak but can you walk through changes? I know you mentioned you're reopening or accelerating some stuff in Northwest Ohio, working on the tunnel in Virginia. What is the goal on intermodal? I don't know if there's a simple way to kind of highlight what you're doing there.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I guess the goal is -- I think we were pretty clear about last year -- unwinding the hub-and-spoke system in Northwest Ohio, where you had multiple handlings of the same container on a network, which is a very expensive way to do that when you're -- very expensive way to operate, especially when you have a very short length of hauls associated with that. Last year, we unwound that to a large degree and we talked about the fact that we took 7% of the intermodal volumes off the company in the third quarter of last year. And to be honest with you, at that point in time, we thought we had fixed the intermodal network to a large degree.

What we uncovered as we went through 2018 then and began to try and build and make our terminals more effective and our trains more efficient, that we were doing similar things to the hub-and-spoke in Northwest Ohio, we were doing that same kind of double and triple handling of containers in many other locations on the railroad. So, we are unwinding those. We got rid of, I would say, about a third of that earlier this year before the peak and we have another piece of business that we will unwind, rationalize the lanes, get out of doing this double and triple handling of containers, and that'll happen at the beginning of the year after peak season. And we'll clearly assess before we start doing that kind of stuff what the weather situation looks like and everything like that.

Our goal here is to work with our customers. Our customers clearly understand what we are doing. And in a lot of cases, you have to publish not only in the media but in various analysts' reports saying that what they're doing makes no sense. You can't be everything to everyone and we're not here to win a blue ribbon for volume. We're here to win an award for being safe, customer-focused, and efficient and making money.

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

I appreciate the time, Jim. Great answers. Great insight.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Tom Wadewitz with UBS. You may ask your question.

Tom Wadewitz -- UBS -- Analyst

Yeah. Good evening and congratulations on the strong results. Wanted to ask a question about -- you talked about these intermodal changes in services. You previously, or just now, you said kind of 7% impact to volume with what you did last year. Can you give kind of a framework of the changes you made in August this year, what you might do in first quarter next year? Is that a bigger impact? Or what might be the total volume impact from those changes?

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah. So, Tom, the two announcements that we made -- one, in late August that went into effect in mid-September, had about a 2% impact on our volumes. And then the one that we announced in early October that won't take effect until early January is about 5%. So, combined, it would be about the same volume impact that we announced I guess this time last year. So.

Tom Wadewitz -- UBS -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And then I wanted to see if you could offer some thoughts on kind of where you're at with the salesforce and getting the salesforce energized and the right people in place and engagement with the customers, in terms of selling for the car load customers to leverage the service and maybe convert some truck freight. And then also if you had a little more color on the BN agreement. Kind of what the nature is of what you're doing with BN Northwest Ohio. Thank you.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

That's a crafty way of asking a follow-up.

Tom Wadewitz -- UBS -- Analyst

Yeah, I know. Sorry about that.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

That's OK. So, clearly, what I've been focused on here the last two and a half months has been putting together an organization that I believe that will be required going forward to sell what we believe is a truly exceptional service product. We at CSX had a lot of people in sales and marketing. Over the last year and a half, some of those people have left the organization. Some people are wearing dual hats. Some people are doing some other things.

So, one of my first priorities was to truly understand what I had. We just completed a couple weeks ago a sales meeting for every sales and marketing person in the organization, where we invited the entire senior management team with a lot of the senior operating folks to come together and explain to them what we're trying to achieve and what we're trying to do and sale services, not price. Explained to them our service product. That we actually have a product now to go in and sell to the customer. We don't just throw on and place an ad and hope we have the lowest price.

So, we're doing a lot and we're focusing on creating a winning culture in our sales department. And they are incentivized, as we just started a sales incentive program to incent them on doing what they're supposed to do and get out and sell. So, the last question?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

BN.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

  1. That's a haulage agreement. It begins here at the end of the month and we're excited for that. We're going to grow into this agreement with BN and we'll -- I think, clearly, the volumes that we will see through the end of the year will offset some of the lane rationalizations this year that I talked about. So, we should see some growth in our intermodal business in Q4.

Tom Wadewitz -- UBS -- Analyst

Why would you do haulage instead of some other way of getting the traffic there?

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

We took 7% off and we're up 3%. So, again, we're going to take off some of this business and we're going to grow the business. Haulage is an effective way for us to work together into this Northwest Ohio market, plus we have a long-standing relationship with BNSF because this is exactly what we do today into the Atlanta market to our Fairburn terminal there. They have haulage from the west coast all the way into Atlanta. So, it's consistent with the way we've done business with them for years.

Tom Wadewitz -- UBS -- Analyst

Right. Okay. Thank you.

Operator

And your next question comes from David Vernon with Bernstein. You may ask your question.

David Vernon -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Hey, good afternoon, guys. Frank, I'm trying to reconcile the acceleration in some of the demurrage fees and the incidentals with what sounds like a railroad that's running a lot faster. How should we be thinking about the point in time when those incidental fees may start to come down as customers begin to comply? And what's really driving the above-trend kind of results here in the third quarter on that fee line?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Specifically to the quarter, it had more to do with the change in the in-transit reserve. If you think about the year-over-year change in the transit times, we were much better this quarter than we were a year ago. So, the beat against the guidance that we gave you was the revenue reserve adjustment. In terms of your broader comment, I think we're a little surprised that behaviors haven't changed as much as we had expected them to earlier in the year. I think it has less to do with our service product and more to do with the fact that the trucking capacity remains tight. And we've done some changes in the policies and the rates and things that we thought would incent the customers to spend the assets a little bit more quickly. So, I think if trucking capacity loosens up at some point in time in the future, you could probably see that come down a little bit. But for the next quarter, we've guided you to that $130 million to $140 million range.

David Vernon -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

All right. And then maybe just kind of on a related note, the $20 million stepdown, is this a new normal on the equipment and other rents line or is there something also associated with the way you're setting up that haulage agreement or the in-transit reserves that would affect that number as well? Should we just be thinking about this as the right run rate on equipment and other rents?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Got you. So, neither the haulage deal nor the revenue reserve adjustments have anything to do with rents. What is helping us on the rents is that the days per load for both merchandise and automotive, and a little bit even on the intermodal side, have gotten so much better that we're having to pay less car hireage, is really how it translates. We're not going to give run rates in terms of any of the various expense line items but as our velocity continues to improve, as our dwell continues to improve, as the customers do their part of the bargain in loading and unloading, you'll continue to see days per load improve and you'll continue to see us provide efficiencies on car hire.

David Vernon -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

All right. Thanks for the clarifications, guys.

Operator

Thank you. The next question comes from Brandon Oglenski with Barclays. You may ask your question.

Brandon Oglenski -- Barclays -- Analyst

Hey. Thanks, everyone. So, Mark, I just want to get your perspective, now heading the marketing organization and sales efforts. We talked a lot last summer about CSX service, I guess, "failing," or at least that's what a lot of the industry pundits wanted to say. But how are customers engaging you today and what's the competitive outlook looking like on some of the multiyear contracts into '19 and into '20? Because you guys clearly have taken some costs out of the equation. From our perspective, velocity is up. But how do we really measure that from a customer service perspective?

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Well, listen. I've been spending a lot of time recently with customers. As Jim talked about I think last quarter, my No. 1 priority was to get out there and sort of reestablish some relationships with some of these customers and I've been doing that. I don't think I've been home very much. But clearly, they are witnessing the service product that we told them that was coming. They were not too happy with us last fall but we told them to -- we were going to improve and we have improved and they are witnessing that every day. Clearly, they want to keep doing business with CSX. They don't want to -- they want to move more freight to rail and to CSX rather than truck.

And they're doing that. We see evidence of that, especially in our Forest Products business and our Metals business. You'll see those double-digit growth volumes in Q3. That is us winning back share that those customers had to move to truck last year or earlier in the year because our service levels weren't where they should have been. I've been visiting with a lot of those customers and they want to use us. And as we continue to get better and continue to improve, more and more of that freight is coming back to CSX and you'll continue to see that more in spades in Q4 and going forward.

Brandon Oglenski -- Barclays -- Analyst

I mean, I guess in that context then, can you just remind us the long-term volume outlook you guys provided back in February? I think it was across merchandise and intermodal and whether maybe that could prove ultimately conservative?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. We did not give you volume guidance. We gave you revenue guidance.

Brandon Oglenski -- Barclays -- Analyst

Yeah, sorry. Revenue.

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

And we're putting together our plans for 2019. And as Jim mentioned, we'll provide some more color on that when we get on the January call.

Brandon Oglenski -- Barclays -- Analyst

All right. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Your next question comes from Scott Group with Wolfe Research. You may ask your question.

Scott Group -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Hey, thanks. Afternoon, guys. So, Frank, can you give us maybe a little bit of guidance on real estate gains and headcount for the fourth quarter? And then big picture, I think at the Analyst Day, over the three-year plan, you talked about a 6,000 reduction in headcount. Is that still the right long-term number to use?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So, in terms of the year, what Jim talked about in terms of guidance is we put out the 2,000 total workforce number and we're essentially there. I think we'll continue to look for opportunities in Q4 to reduce that further. We'll certainly have a number internally for 2019 and beyond. Whether or not we share that, we'll certainly -- we'll talk about that as we prepare for the January call. But we're going to continue, even with the volume increases that we believe will come on, we're going to continue to look for labor efficiencies and expect that to be part of how we continue to drive operating leverage going forward.

In terms of your real estate and line sale questions, we gave the $300 million, three-year sales proceeds for real estate, with upside in line sales. In the quarter, when you think about the split there, the gains were $43 million on line sales and $10 million on real estate. The line sales there are probably a little bit heavier on the gains side than they will be in the future. And part of the reason for that is one of the things that we characterize as a line sale was a lease conversion so you'll see more gain on that one than you would in a normal line sale. So, we're off to a strong start. We've got a big pipeline. Q4 will depend on whether or not we see the things closing at the end of the year. There's always nuances around whether something closes in December or in January. If it closes in December, we'll have a good fourth quarter.

Scott Group -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Okay. I guess that's helpful. And then, Mark, for you. As truck load spot pricing has softened a little bit, is that having any impact in terms of your pricing discussions as you look out to 2019 pricing?

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Well, I'm not going to get into 2019 pricing. It's having zero impact on where we are today.

Scott Group -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

All right. Thank you, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Justin Long with Stephens. You may ask your question.

Justin Long -- Stephens -- Analyst

Thanks and congrats on the quarter. So, Jim, maybe to start with one for you. I know you've made some changes in your coal team. I believe you've said that you're thinking big as it relates to changes that you're contemplating for that business. Could you expand on where you stand as it relates to any structural changes you're assessing for the coal franchise and what some of those options could look like?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I guess the correct answer is we are always looking at what's the best way for us to be structured and are there more efficient arrangements, structures, enterprise structures, or whatever it is, in order to maximize value. But we certainly don't have anything like that on the horizon for near-term. I'll let Mark follow up on the other parts of your question.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah. Just as I think about -- you may have seen recently, we just hired a new Vice President of Coal, Shon Yates. Shon was a former energy trader, former coal customer. Brilliant guy. And he's coming into this role. He's been here about 30 days. And he's got a lot of ideas. And so as we think about our domestic coal business and the future of export, Shon's bringing a lot of innovative ways and look forward to him helping us go forward with our coal business.

Justin Long -- Stephens -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And, secondly, this one's probably for Frank. On CapEx, you mentioned that you pulled forward some of your spending on PTC. I just wanted to ask what drove that decision and going forward, any change to your expectation on total CapEx for PTC or operating expense for PTC in the future?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, got you. Good question. So, no change in the overall guidance for the full PTC project. We've been saying $2.4 billion completed project for a number of years now. We're still on that trajectory. We're at about $2.2 billion now. The decision that Jim made was if it's going to be a safer railroad, let's go ahead and do everything we can to get it done more quickly. The team is fully engaged in doing that. We'll still need the extension and plan to submit our request for the extension in the next couple of months but we're making great progress there. No change in the PTC OpEx outlook. It's very consistent with what we've told you in prior quarters. And, yes, the overall $4.8 billion CapEx over three years is still fully intact.

Justin Long -- Stephens -- Analyst

Okay. Great. I appreciate the time.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Matt Russell with Goldman Sachs. You may ask your question.

Matthew Russell -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Yeah. Just following up on CapEx, you also referenced there is a piece of the increase this year associated with hurricane relief. So, should we just assume that's a very small piece of it if the overall budget of $4.8 billion is still intact for the next three years?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. It's going to be somewhere for Hurricane Florence in the $20-ish million range. And PTC, obviously, we're pulling some of that forward. And then we've got some other high-return projects that we have approved in the last couple of months. Obviously, with Ed, Mark, and Jim, they've got some ideas of things that can help us be more effective and more efficient and we're implementing those with some additional capital.

Matthew Russell -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Understood. Okay. And then back to the Other Revenue line, is there a normalized run rate that you think about, whether we get there in '19 or not, when you eventually do start to see those demurrage fees and customer behavior change? And what is that? And do you think that you can offset a big portion of that with improved efficiency on the network?

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. We really haven't gotten to the point where we're willing to give a long-term guide on that particular line. Just to give you some color, if you looked at it on a year-over-year basis, about three-quarters of the year-over-year increase is demurrage, incidental storage fees, etc. on both the car load and intermodal lines, and about a quarter of it is that in-transit reserve that I mentioned earlier. Certainly, if we are spinning the railroad faster and faster, you're going to see an offsetting decrease in your rents line because car hire is going to be lower.

Matthew Russell -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Understood. Very helpful. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Walter Spracklin with RBC. You may ask your question.

Walter Spracklin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Just starting on the volume or the revenue guidance, when we were asking you last quarter about the trend there, you were a little reluctant to give any change to your formal guidance based on some of the uncertainty in coal. I'm just wondering if, with this change, is it that you've gotten some more visibility on coal or is it that the rest of the non-coal business is just ramping up that even with your current outlook on coal, you felt in a position to be able to increase your guidance.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Walter, great to talk to you. I think from the very beginning, each quarter I've said we were going to be -- I think in January, we were going to be a tinch better than slightly up. And then in the next quarter, I said we were going to be a tinch better than slightly up, which kind of got us to, like I said, the 5% range. We've said many, many times. And now we're going off, hey, 6% to 8%. Let's call it 7%. So, go from 5% to 7% or whatever, 5.5% to 7%. Clearly, at the beginning of the year, I think everybody expected that export coal was going to tail off at the midpoint of the year and it has stayed strong and it continues to stay strong. So, yes, I mean, when we have that big of a piece of our business that has not declined but is steadily growing -- not necessarily growing more than we expected, just everybody said it was going to drop off and it hasn't. So, that's had a big part in the change in our outlook.

Plus, as I said at the very beginning, all of our business units are growing. The economy is very, very strong and all of our customers are very optimistic about the outlook. Forest Products, pulp board, paper, and lumber. Metals. You name it. Plastics. Mark can probably -- he's talked to all the customers. Mark can throw in some more comments -- some more color.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Yeah. I think we can talk about export coal and the strength of export coal all day long but what's really pleasing me these days is just the strength of our service product. Our customers are taking notice and we're gaining market share and growing this volume on the merchandise side. Let's not lose side of that. We're doing really, really well on merchandise. We're doing good in intermodal. We announced 7% of lane rationalizations at the end of last year and we're growing intermodal. And so things are healthy out there. People want to do business with CSX. And as somebody said north of the border last quarter, it's a good time to be in the rail business but I think it's an even better time to be CSX right now.

Walter Spracklin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

That's great. And in a similar vein here, Jim, on your operating ratio target of 60 two years ahead of schedule. You said it came in better than you expected. What area would you say really blew out the lights in terms of what you were expecting at the beginning of the year and what actually happened here three quarters through?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, just across the board, I think we're just doing -- it's not just one thing that suddenly was like, "Oh, wow, look at this." It's across the board. It was a massive reengineering of CSX. And the question was not, in my mind, as I said at the beginning, a year ago or a little less than a year ago, it was not that this company couldn't get to a 60 operating ratio. It was a question of when. And so, yes, there has been, from top to bottom, major, major changes on the revenue side of the business, restructuring that side of the business, getting rid of the intermodal stand-alone business. I mean, it's a whole new management team. Really bright, energetic people.

And then you go down into the operating side of the business -- in every fact. Just, I mean, every measurement that we have out there, in terms of velocity, dwell, train delays, crew utilization -- we get down into -- I'm sure you've heard us talk about our taxi and hotel -- you've heard us talking about taxi and hotel expense. We've got people around here that are probably counting how many Dixie cups we're using. Because we are constantly focusing on improving the way we run the business. And then in every area, we are doing better, faster than I think all of us thought we could do.

Walter Spracklin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

I just want to clarify what we heard from Mark there in September. It's not that you've hit 60 and now you're done. My impression from Mark was you're still early days of implementing precision railroads so if you hit 60, there's still plenty more to go. Is that a fair assessment?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Mark's a Canadian so he thinks in hockey terms. So, Mark's still in the first period. I think in baseball terms and we're in the early innings.

Walter Spracklin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. Okay.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We have a lot of improvement to do, a lot of things to get done, and, yeah, there's no -- I don't know where this whole idea came where all of sudden you hit a number and everybody says, oh, we pivot. We've been [audio cuts out] I certainly have. I've been working really, really hard here to grow this business since the day I walked in the door. And how do you grow the business? By running a better railroad. Simple as that. It's not like, forget the customers, the hell with the customer, just focus on ripping out costs. That's not what precision scheduling is about and that's not the way we've run the business since the day I walked in here.

Walter Spracklin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks for the color. Appreciate it.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Ravi Shanker with Morgan Stanley. You may ask your question.

Ravi Shanker -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thanks. Good evening, guys. Just a couple left here. Your service levels have improved significantly, obviously, since this time last year. Can you just remind us what level of STB supervision still exists and kind of when that will lift, given that you guys have proven that last year's issues no longer exist?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

None. None. I think we might be the only one. When the STB said -- and that was in March, I believe -- said that we no longer had to make weekly calls with the STB and, using my words, took us off the watch list, they put everybody else on the watch list. And I know that a few other railroads are still on it today. So, we're by far, if not the best, one of the best running railroads and so there's no reason whatsoever that we would be under any kind of supervision.

Ravi Shanker -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Got it. Understood. And just speaking of other railroads, can you give us a little more color on this lawsuit that you filed versus your regional peer about access to the Port of Virginia.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Yeah. What it is, it's a kind of corporate governance issue, where CSX and NS jointly own this third-party entity that provides switching access to the Port of Virginia. And over time, in all those things in the railroad business, it evolved over time into the situation where we have minority representation on this company, which used to be 50/50, and we don't feel we're being provided the appropriate access to the terminals in Virginia and we believe that that's a result of the other guy's disproportionate ownership. So, we're going to defend ourselves in court, simple as that.

Ravi Shanker -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Got it. And if you guys do see a favorable resolution there, does that result in more coal volumes or better pricing? How do we see that in the numbers?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

It's more active to the intermodal terminals in Virginia than that.

Ravi Shanker -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you so much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Bascome Majors with Susquehanna Financial Group. You may ask your question.

Bascome Majors -- Susquehanna International Group -- Analyst

Yes. Good afternoon. It's very clear that the network is running really well right now. Can you give us an update on where you are in the process of perhaps naming a permanent COO and sort of what you guys and the Board want to see before you're comfortable making that decision?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Chief Operating Officer? COO?

Bascome Majors -- Susquehanna International Group -- Analyst

Yes, Chief Operating Officer.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

It's not on my radar at all. I've got an extremely solid team right now. Mark, in just one quarter, has done -- I knew he'd do an extremely good job and he's done even better than I expected. And Mr. Harris is overseeing the operating function, where we have great talent. And so I'm very, very comfortable with the way the company is structured today. And that is not to say that we are not always cognizant of the fact, and myself as a member of the Board of Directors, need to make sure that we're doing the appropriate due diligence on a succession plan.

And so that's all part of this process that we're going through and putting in -- again, Ed's working really hard to develop and we have an extremely talented group of individuals on the operating side of the business. And now Mark's leadership, we have really a stellar group of people in the sales side of the business, along with Frank and the finance people, Diana and Nathan, the other executive leadership team. We are rock solid. People go, "Hey, are you going to hire somebody?" No, we're not going to hire anybody. There's nobody out there that's better than we are. Now, are we going to find who can be the future leader of the company? Yeah. And hopefully that comes from inside. And so that's what we're working on developing.

Bascome Majors -- Susquehanna International Group -- Analyst

Thank you for the detailed response there. Just one more, really high-level, then I'll pass it on. But if you look back for the last two quarters, CSX earned more than the prior regime did in its best full year. And it looks like you're going to end this year pretty close to the margin target you laid out this spring for 2020. I mean, and you said you're exceeding your own expectations, not just ours here. I mean, all good news. But, clearly, the pace that you're on this year can't continue forever. How do you think about, and what do you consider when managing investor expectations going forward? And you keep talking to January, kind of more in January. Are we going to hear a comprehensive revisit of the long-term plan there, given the project you've made, or is it going to be more about here's how we're looking for 2019?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Again, we're not planning on doing another investor day to reboot the thing. There's no need to. We are nowhere near the finish line here. We've got a lot of opportunity ahead of us. And we'll kind of try to -- we will try to give you as much visibility toward that as we're comfortable doing at the end of the year.

Bascome Majors -- Susquehanna International Group -- Analyst

Thank you for the time.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Cherilyn Radbourne with TD Securities. You may ask your question.

Cherilyn Radbourne -- TD Securities -- Analyst

Thanks very much and good afternoon. I wanted to ask about trip plan compliance because that strikes me as more of a customer-facing operating metric. And I think you indicated last quarter that trip plan compliance was around 60%. So, I was just wondering if you could update us on that metric this quarter and talk about what the upper limit is. In other words, I assume that 100% is impractical but what's best in class on trip compliance?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Trip plan compliance, I mean, yes. It's a critical component. It does two things. It measures how well the railroad is running. It measures reliability. Because when we fail, the car's not going to get there when we said it was going to get there. It's as simple as that. So, when we say we're about 60%, 65% of the cars met their trip plans, that means that 30%, 35% of them didn't. And 30%, 35% of them, when we said they were going to be there by Thursday at 11:00, weren't. So, that number is a huge -- and then when we miss, not only do we disappoint the customer and not have a delivery when we said we were going to do, we then have to go back and we have to handle that car again. That means if we missed it, we have to handle it again. And therefore, the dual costs come in.

So, that's why this measure is so significant because it shows that you didn't need to do it two or three times to get it there on time and you got it there on time. So, the customer is happy and we did it in the most efficient manner and that's why trip plan compliance is so critical. If we were at 60%, 65% at the end of the first quarter, we're up 28% or whatever number it was I said, 26% improved from there. So, if you want to do the math, high 70s kind of range right now. And we need to get that number -- obviously, we want to get that number to 100%. What's reasonable in this kind of a business where you've got all kinds of things that go bump in the night and you have problems occasionally? But it's not 75%. It's closer to 95%. And we'll get there and we'll get there as quickly as we possibly can. And if we continue to see these, sequentially every quarter, 10% improvement in that metric, then that's going to show how well we're doing.

Cherilyn Radbourne -- TD Securities -- Analyst

Great. That's helpful. Very quickly, I just wondered if you could update us on domestic coal stockpiles post the end of this summer.

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

They're low in the south. And so the predominance of our coal, domestic coal, utility coal, is for the south and the stockpiles are low heading into the winter here. So, that's a good story for Q4 for us. And I think it's probably one of the quarters that I've seen in a long time that I think our domestic utility coal is actually going to be up in the quarter. So.

Cherilyn Radbourne -- TD Securities -- Analyst

Thank you. That's all for me.

Operator

Thank you. Our final question comes from Ben Hartford with Robert W. Baird. You may ask your question.

Benjamin Hartford -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Thanks. Jim, just coming back to the beginning of the call when you made a comment about train accident rates needing to improve, I'm just looking for some perspective of your experience here relative to PSR implementation at your prior rails, is the issue now just constructive to satisfaction as it relates to safety and train accidents specifically? Has it been weather? Or is it something else that you see kind of specific to this experience that perhaps is causing that to operate on a lag, if it's fair to characterize it as that metric operating on a bit of a lag? Some perspective there would be helpful. Thanks.

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

In terms of the implementation of scheduled railroading and its impact on safety, if you look at the past railroads that have implemented PSR, they've always been the safest, whether it was Canadian National and then Canadian Pacific. And so it's not related to that we've changed some kind of an operating practice and it's resulted in an issue.

The vast majority of those incidents are extremely small, isolated incidents that take place in one of our yards. And they normally involve an engineering defect, where something happens to the track structure. And they're all basically derailments. I mean, there's a few bangs -- one car gets banged into another. But in train accidents, it's mostly a derailment caused by an engineering situation. Or a human mistake. And so obviously we can work on the engineering end of that, which we are aggressively, to make sure that our infrastructure and everything is up to speed in our yards to avoid that. And then secondarily, work with our employees to make sure they understand what the rules are and make sure that they don't do something that causes a car to go on the ground. Simple as that.

Benjamin Hartford -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful. Thank you.

Kevin Boone -- Chief Investor Relations Officer

All right. That wraps up our call tonight. Jim, do you have any final comments?

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, no. Thank you so much for your interest, as always, and we will be back to talk to you at the end of the year and try to give you a little flavor for what the future looks like. Thank you so much.

Kevin Boone -- Chief Investor Relations Officer

All right. Thanks, everyone.

Operator

That concludes today's teleconference. Thank you for your participation in today's call. You may disconnect your lines.

Duration: 76 minutes

Call participants:

Kevin Boone -- Chief Investor Relations Officer

James M. Foote -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Frank A. Lonegro -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Mark K. Wallace -- Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Allison Landry -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Chris Wetherbee -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Brian Ossenbeck -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Amit Mehrotra -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Ken Hoexter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Tom Wadewitz -- UBS -- Analyst

David Vernon -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Brandon Oglenski -- Barclays -- Analyst

Scott Group -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Justin Long -- Stephens -- Analyst

Matthew Russell -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Walter Spracklin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Ravi Shanker -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Bascome Majors -- Susquehanna International Group -- Analyst

Cherilyn Radbourne -- TD Securities -- Analyst

Benjamin Hartford -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

More CSX analysis

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