Lisa Tuningley has a passion for rail that she tries to impart whenever she can – one she wishes more people shared.
“All the beautiful things that are in our lives are here because of rail,” she says from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Rail has impact, it has purpose. It connects people and economies. It’s about freedom and it’s about sustainability.”
And yet, when Lisa speaks to people of her son’s generation, she’s struck by the steep climb rail faces to get into the popular consciousness of young people.
“Rail is competing against Amazon and instant fulfillment. The industry has to do a better job of meeting changing expectations, telling its story on sustainability, and making the case for more young people to get on board.”
Tuningley points to statistics like every rail job supports eight others throughout the economy or the emissions savings compared to shipping by truck, as she makes her case about rail’s sustainability advantage to audiences across Canada.
Tuningley is the founder & president of T-Rail Products, Inc. The company offers new and renewable rail products and services that include track rail supply, rail advocacy and disruptive innovations.
Over its 11+ years in business, the company has worked with large and short line rail operators extensively. Yet it’s only in the last year or so that Tuningley has heard more people talk seriously about what she considers to be a critical component to rail’s survivability: customer-centricity.
“Customers want better service, consistent rules, and a simpler experience,” she says. “If rail continues to offer online tools that aren’t terribly efficient, customer service reps that are so overloaded they take weeks to return calls, and delivery guarantees that are less than iron-clad, we’re going to lose to trucks. Every time.”
The answer, she believes, is recruiting and retaining bright young talent to rail for the long-haul.
“We need to focus on the human factor – lifestyles and values – if we’re going to get intelligent people that can help us capture more freight market share. The solutions for rail’s future are already out there in the minds of smart people…we need to harness them.”
She adds: “We need to bring the right people in to our industry to fill the thousands of jobs, operational and non-, that are going to be available over the coming years. Male, female, whomever is best… and I think our impact and sustainability arguments can help us sway those people our way.”
To keep herself running at full tilt, Tuningley enjoys getting outside and connecting with nature – ideally with family and friends. When not at work, you can likely find her hiking, cycling, ATV’ing, or boating. But rail is never far away, even sneaking into her creative pursuits like painting and journaling.
Rail’s purpose and sustainability have become her life’s work, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Get to know all of our panelist for the Women In Rail event here.