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The supply chain’s little-known weakest link: Railroad workers

By Admin

Reported by Eleanor Mueller for Politico.

In the scramble to bring prices back down, one obstacle is slowly garnering more attention: a decimated railroad workforce, which agency officials say is impeding efforts to transport goods and, in doing so, further hobbling an already-delicate supply chain.

Over the last six years, Class I freight railroads — which include BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific — have hemorrhaged a combined 45,000 workers, according to the Surface Transportation Board. That’s nearly 29 percent of their workforce.

“They’ve cut labor below the bone, really,” STB Chair Marty Oberman told the House Transportation Committee during a hearing Thursday. “In order to make up for the shortage of labor, they are overworking and abusing the workforces they have.”

The attrition coincides with existing supply chain challenges and resulting record-high inflation. As of April, prices were up 8.3 percent in the last year.

“There has been a decent amount of focus on the problems in the trucking industry, but there hasn’t been as much attention on the rail side — and frankly, all of them need to be in order for our supply chain to be functioning properly,” AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan told Weekly Shift. “Every single component has to be working well, whether it be the ports, the railroads, the trucking industry or the warehousing industry.”

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