OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — CSX has hired an auto industry executive to lead the railroad after its current CEO retires.

Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Corp. said Thursday that Joe Hinrichs will take over from Jim Foote at the end of this month. Hinrichs previously served as president of Ford Motor Co.’s global auto business.

Hinrichs said in an interview with The Associated Press he’s very excited that CSX and the other major railroads were able to reach a tentative contract agreement Thursday with unions to prevent a potentially devastating national strike.

“Our employees are going to get a well-deserved raise after working so hard the last couple years through the pandemic,” Hinrichs said. “We’re excited about moving from here. Now we can move our conversation into how do we work together to grow the business and better serve our customers.”

The railroads have been plagued with delivery delays that prompted shippers to complain loudly this year about poor service. Federal regulators got involved and ordered the railroads to address the problems.

But improvement has come slowly. CSX and the other major railroads each needed to hire and train hundreds of additional workers, and that has been difficult amid the ongoing nationwide labor shortage.

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Hinrichs said he hopes the new union contracts will help CSX attract and retain more employees.

He said he knows the railroad business as a customer, but not the details of its operations. He has been studying up on the Precision Scheduled Railroading model that CSX has used to slash its costs in recent years and will plan to lean on the expertise of CSX’s managers.

“Fortunately, we have a very strong operating team here at CSX that has implemented Precision Scheduled Railroading in the last couple years,” Hinrichs said. “The results have been outstanding. Many people believe CSX is a leader in that regard.”

Hinrichs said he has “read all the books that Hunter Harrison put out” and has been talking to people in the industry to learn more. Harrison originated the Precision Scheduled Railroading model when he led the Canadian railroads and implemented it at CSX before his death.

The model relies on using fewer, longer trains with a mix of freight on them, so railroads can operate with fewer locomotives and employees. Since CSX put it in place, the model has been widely adopted by other U.S. railroads. Collectively, the major U.S. railroads have used the model to cut nearly one-third of their workforce over the past six years.

Foote agreed to remain on as an advisor through March to help with the transition.

CSX is one of the nation’s largest railroads, and it operates more than 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of track in 26 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces after acquiring Pam-Am Railways in the northeastern United States earlier this year.