Railroad Unions, Companies Reach Tentative Compromise To Avoid Strike – Texas A&M University Today
Workers service the tracks at the Metra/BNSF railroad yard outside of downtown on Sept. 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. Metra, the largest rail service carrying commuters from the suburbs to downtown Chicago, said that it would be forced to suspend service on many of its lines if freight rail workers went on strike.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Freight rail companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers reached a tentative agreement last week preventing what could have been an economically damaging strike.
Although a compromise was reached, . Texas A&M Today spoke with Allan Rutter, head of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Freight and Investment Analysis Division, about the possible implications of a strike should the agreement not be approved.
The average Texan has probably never had to rely on trains for transportation. For these people, how would you explain the role of the rail system in the U.S. economy and supply chain?
Most Texans were born in or moved to Texas long after trains no longer provided extensive intercity passenger rail services. However, Texans have long benefited from the state’s extensive freight rail system. Texas has more rail miles and rail employees than any other state and second-highest number of rail car movements (next to Illinois).
The combination of geography and population make Texas’ rail network critical. With the nation’s second-largest population, Texas is a major market for industrial and retail commercial products that move by rail. Because the state is also a major manufacturing center, Texas generates motor vehicle, chemical manufacturing, and agricultural production rail traffic that moves to the rest of the country. Texas also is a crossroad between consumer products from Asia moving from West Coast ports to eastern states, agricultural products moving between the Midwest to Texas ports for export, and motor vehicle parts between Mexico and Canada.
If the trains were to stop running, how wide-ranging could the consequences be?
The Association of American Railroads, the trade association for larger freight railroads, estimated economic damage of as much as $2 billion per day from a protracted railroad strike.
Some of the effects for Texas would include:
- Ethanol produced from corn in the Midwest is transported by tank car to gasoline refineries along the Gulf Coast (including those in Texas) to be mixed into gasoline that then moves by pipeline throughout the country. A rail strike could cripple gasoline production and/or increase prices at pumps across the country.
- Cattle and poultry raising in Texas depends on feed grain moved by rail. A rail strike would either increase food costs by moving feed by truck or could result in livestock losses.
- Some Texas utilities still use coal-fired power plants which use coal transported by rail from Wyoming. A rail strike could challenge the Texas electrical grid.
- Texas motor vehicle manufacturing in Arlington and San Antonio depends on parts from Canada and Mexico moved by rail, and finished vehicles move out of Texas by rail. A rail strike could result in plant shutdowns and labor furloughs.
A tentative agreement has been reached to avert a national rail strike. If a strike were to happen, how long would it take for the average person to feel the effects? Have there already been pre-strike disruptions?
Precautionary restrictions of hazardous materials to prepare for a possible strike earlier in the week before …….