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‘Industries dependent upon the railroads’ service are forsaken’

By Admin

Reported by Joanna Marsh for Freightwaves.

The Surface Transportation Board has scheduled a hearing for April 26-27 in response to a letter sent by the National Grain and Feed Association about worsening rail service.

The March 24 letter has gotten support from various rail unions and other stakeholders in recent days. These stakeholders are also asking the STB to examine the causes behind the service delays.

Here’s a roundup of what’s been said recently:

Unions criticize headcount reductions, blame service issues on lack of adequate staffing

The rail unions cite precision scheduled railroading (PSR) as being the cause of many of the service issues occurring today, according to recent correspondence to STB.

In a Monday letter to the board, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO said it agreed with NGFA’s assessment of deteriorating service conditions on the Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP), BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC). The union said PSR, an approach that seeks to streamline operations, “looms large in the disruptions [NGFA] members are currently facing.”

PSR encouraged the railroads to trim their workforce, including staffing for the market-sensitive train and engine crews, according to the TTD letter signed by its president, Greg Regan. But when demand bounced back, the railroads didn’t have enough workers to manage the demand, Regan said.

“NGFA cites that a lack of available crews has resulted in long delays. This should come as no surprise, as the carriers have spent the last several years slashing tens of thousands of jobs across every craft, without regard to the impact this would have on the provision, quality or frequency of service,” Regan said.

He said that to make up for the reduction in employee headcount, the absence policies adopted by some of the railroads became punitive.

“Rather than pursue real measures to return headcount to appropriate levels, the carriers have instead focused on extracting maximal hours from the existing workforce under the threat of discipline and termination,” Regan said.

Read more here.