Potential railroad strike would shift carriage rights to truckers

(NewsNation) – Supply chain delays would be inevitable if the trucking industry is tapped to fill a shipping gap created by a potential railroad strike, with likely ramifications on the economy, commuters and workers. truckers already responsible for transporting 72% of the nation’s goods.

Nearly 5,000 railway workers from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) have voted to reject a tentative agreement with the railroads and allow a strike, the union announced on Wednesday.

The strike will be delayed until noon on September 29 rather than the original Friday deadline to allow negotiations to continue between union leaders and the railways.

Idling the 7,000 daily long-haul freight trains in the United States would require more than 460,000 additional long-haul trucks every day, wrote Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Association, in a letter to Congress earlier this month.

“Thus, any disruption in rail service will create havoc in the supply chain and fuel inflationary pressures at all levels,” Spear wrote.

Keeping product moving during a freight rail strike would be a matter of resources not being widespread enough to avoid disruption, said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“There’s certainly no shortage of truckers, but again, there’s no big surplus either,” he said. “They wouldn’t have the capacity, wouldn’t have the equipment to step in and fill the void in any quick way.”

In July, President Joe Biden’s administration created an emergency council to help settle the dispute between major rail carriers and a dozen unions. Last month, this advice made recommendations calling for increases of 24% over five years, $5,000 in bonuses and an additional paid day off per year.

Nine of the unions have reached tentative agreements under these recommendations, but discussions with two others – which represent 57,000 conductors and engineers – are ongoing.

“I understand that transport workers – whether they are rail workers or truck drivers – are essential,” Spencer said. “And if we want our supply chain to work, if we want to meet the needs of America and others, then we need reliable people and we need to recognize the value that those people bring.”

If a deal isn’t reached, Congress could step in to prevent a walkout.

However, delaying a potential strike through congressional action could only exacerbate the situation, Spear told lawmakers.

“A possible strike or lockout in October or November is arguably worse than next week, although any disruption will cost the nation billions of dollars in lost productivity,” Spear wrote in her letter.

Already bracing for a strike, passenger rail companies such as Amtrak and Chicago’s Metra commuter system are adjusting operations, with some cancellations already scheduled or in place. More people commuting to work instead of public transport could further hamper deliveries.

“More cars on the road will tend to create more congestion and things like that,” Spencer said. “It’s definitely not what most truckers would want to see. Alternatives to the car are therefore a good idea to free up the road for our people who are essential travellers.

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