CSX falls into the transportation sector, which is often considered a leading economic indicator.
"Our buyings are up 10 percent year over year," said Ward. "By comparison they were down 15 percent in the third quarter of last year. So we've caught up more than half [of what] we lost last year, and we continue to see the economy slowly growing."
Ward also pointed to strong movement of intermodal traffic on both international and domestic levels. Base markets like chemicals and metals have seen 4-6 percent growth, Ward went on to say.
Positive earnings results of $414 million in the third quarter of 2009 will allow CSX to increase investments, said Ward. CSX plans to repurchase $646 million in shares by Q1 2011, in addition to adding employees. The company recently hired 2,000 people and brought back almost all workers it had on furlough last year, Ward said. CSX has hired 2,000 for attrition and intends to hire some 3,000 next year, he said.
As for regulation, Ward says policymakers will refrain from regulating the railroad industry.
"In general, they understand what the railroads bring to this nation and they won't take action to hurt us," he said.