• shipping backlog and rail

  • For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.
For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by NRGeep
Long Beach container ships stranded in ports, Amazon warehouses frequently not serviced by rail and trucker shortage, lack of communication with shipping chain and Covid's effect on labor. Is there a way out of this mess?
  by Gilbert B Norman
Now let's add the oil spill to the fray, Mr. NR, and the possibility it was caused by a vessel weighing anchor. You can be sure every "sea lawyer" out there are getting ready to feed at the trough, if any foundation to such is laid.

It is very safe to note that COVID will go down as the most economically devastating pandemic in 6258 years of recorded history. Others have caused more deaths in raw numbers and percentage of populations, but none has ever approached the level of COVID's economic damage.
  by Engineer Spike
There's so much afoot which the average Joe Sixpack can't see. I was working in eastern Canada during the SARS epidemic of the early 2000s, end don't remember any special precautions being taken.
  by JayBee
You have to add that every player in the supply chain is running with as little spare capacity that they thought they could get away with. Like laying off a bunch of people when demand dropped when the lockdowns occurred, and being unable to get people to come back to work when a couple of months later demand soared.
  by Gilbert B Norman
This Journal article addresses Omicron impact on both CSX and Union Pacific properties:

Fair Use:
.... Chief Executive Lance Fritz said that the railroad company had been planning for the Covid-19 pandemic to have a smaller impact as the months progressed and felt that it had enough workers and resources to overcome any lingering effects..... CSX Corp. has also faced staffing issues due to a combination of difficulty attracting new workers and existing ones staying home because of Covid-19 infection or exposure. It has been offering $3,000 referral bonuses to existing workers for recommending new hires.

CSX added 150 transportation employees in the fourth quarter and said it is on track to add 300 more in the coming months. ....
However, despite the constraints arising from COVID, UP Fourth Quarter '21 earnings best '20, but we should note, Omicron impacted only December.
  by Gilbert B Norman
From Hilton Suites, Boca Raton--

Not certain what to make of this ominous report appearing today in The Journal.

Fair Use:
Tens of thousands of container loads of cargo that would normally move on railroads are being hauled on American roads each month as companies look to get around continuing supply-chain bottlenecks.

U.S. intermodal transports, in which railroads carry containers and truck trailers, were down nearly 12% in the first six weeks of this year from a year ago, according to the Association of American Railroads, after tumbling in the second half of last year even as retailers and manufacturers rushed to bring in goods.
This shipping crisis could have been a chance for the industry to "shine", and win new high value business once the crisis has alleviated. Instead, they're losing business they previously enjoyed.

Some will be quick to blame PSR - Precision Railroading. I'm not prepared to buy into that line of thought per se; perhaps some here more critical of the PSR model will hold differently, but possibly we can develop through discussion some thoughts.
  by NotYou
You seem to be a well traveled human person Mr. Norman.

I am not sure any industry handled the pandemic well outside of Amazon. Railroads are a heavily regulated industry with high fixed costs, these type of industries don't tend to change quickly. There has also been the uncertainty of constantly changing pandemic regulations, vaccine mandates in different jurisdictions being the most obvious. Factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and the like would shut down for 2 weeks for a deep clean if there was a covid outbreak. I don't have any specific insights into railroads, but I wouldn't say they have under-performed the general market.
  by Engineer Spike
Since this post has largely targeted the logistics backlog from the aspect of crew shortages, I felt the urge to weigh in. First, I think that the pandemic has only been a minor driver in the crew shortage within the railroad industry. My company had a major job abolishment when the shutdowns happened in the spring of 2020. This lasted a couple of months, but many of the junior guys never returned. On the whole, with the extra unemployment benefits (which railroaders are not entitled to), the furloughed employees were easily able to find work elsewhere.

News in the industry has been about the strict attendance policies which have been implemented in recent years. With railroad staff already cut to the bone, now an additional burden has been placed on the remaining staff. Eventually they have enough. A temporary solution is with the company's COVID response teams. If the employee calls and says that he was in contact with a person who was infected, a quarantine is given to the employee, who now can not enter the property until the period expires. A few have used this on a few occasions. Some have, as a long term solution just quit. They can easily find new employment elsewhere, as mentioned.

Right now there is no incentive to work for the railroad. I've mentioned the attendance policies. In the last few years the railroads have played hardball on contract negotiations. The end result is a wage scale which has fallen behind. The pay scale had been generous for the toll taken by the lifestyle. Now this is gone. Why work 24/7 when one can make similar wages with a 9-5 job? In addition to the wage issue, the attendance policy, there is also the discipline policy. As I mentioned on another similar post, they are finding fault with really minor issue. One example is someone who forgets to say "over" on the 367th. radio transmission out of 624 made one day on a yard job. A few more such incidents escalate this person to "at risk", and eventually dismissal. Once again the railroad shoots itself in the foot. Ive seen several good employees, who were dedicated to their jobs just pull the pin over this kind of thing.

Just recently I was pondering the above debacle. One point which comes to mind is the fact that on my roster, the top echelon guys most all come from railroad families like me. Many have families which have worked for the company over many generations. As illustrated, the railroads have succeeded in producing a largely disgruntled workforce. Why would I recommend the profession for my son? A few years ago my nephew graduated high school and asked me about hiring out. I discouraged him. Now he is a heavy equipment operator, and he seems happy in his career choice.

I have just recently been shown a Dunkin Donuts job ad which offers $18/hr. with benefits. If the railroads don't get their priorities organized, how can they attract a workforce? Some have opined that they want to cut it down to have an easier job of implementing automation. They will have less labor protection to stand in their way. In the interim until it is put in place, a skeleton staff will suffice.
  by Gilbert B Norman
NotYou wrote: Tue Feb 22, 2022 9:52 pm You seem to be a well traveled human person Mr. Norman.
Mr. Not You, my "Datelines" when I'm out of town are a likely holdover from back in the days before everybody essentially had "a computer in their pocket".

But it's funny, though, how I survived in this life without a "smartphone" until '14, or until the "flip" on my "flip-phone" just flipped off.

Just an off-topic comment, from a ex-railroader, who takes to heart Engineer Spike's immediate and is concerned, as an investor (Long UNP), about the impact of "The Great Resignation" upon an industry that, from time to time such as now, is eager to hire employees, yet is always looking for ways to fire them.
  by RailsEast
A scathing report by The United States Department of Agriculture to the STB regarding rail service to flour mills, grain elevators and the like.


Scroll down to Filing ID 304208 dated 3/31/22 and the accompanying pdf file.
This is not a pretty picture...
  by eolesen
That's not a report, it's a letter which says this is not a new issue, and I'm sure the unions lobbied Ag to try and make it about PSR...

I'd be curious to see if they can quantify their claims. That would be a report.