Reprieve for Rail Shippers, and all of Us
Tentative deal struck early this morning averts a nationwide rail strike
Welcome to the 15th edition of The Fifth Wheel with Bill Cassidy, an occasional look at a particular aspect of trucking or transportation that’s on my mind or in the news or just caught my eye. Something of a reporter’s notebook, something of a column. I’ll also post occasional insights and reflections on one of my favorite topics, transportation history.
Photo courtesy CSX Corp.
A train whistle in the distance this morning was an especially sweet sound, now that the threat of a nationwide rail strike has been lifted. The Journal of Commerce had a brief story up at 5:55 am (before I was up, admittedly), heralding the tentative agreement reached after a negotiation session between railroads and rail labor leaders hosted by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh ran into the wee hours of Thursday morning.
According to SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the tentative agreement includes wage increases, bonuses, and no increases to insurance copays and deductibles. “For the first time our Unions were able to obtain negotiated contract language exempting time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies,” the unions said in a statement.
There will be more coverage coming today, as details of the agreement, such as its timeline and the exact nature of its provisions, are released. But shippers are breathing a sigh of relief as contingency plans — some scrabbled together at the last minute — are put aside. Shippers, railroads, and ports will spend plenty of time spent ensuring freight flows back to its normal channels over the next few days.
But shippers shouldn’t forget this week, and what could have happened.
"The rail strike scare and the first peak season after the world has opened up from the COVID pandemic really requires shippers to think differently about how they move goods,” Josh Allen, chief commercial officer of digital trucking procurement platform Inxeption, said today in a statement. “When you've been in the industry for a long time, you read trends and cargo challenges based on your history. But the issues we’re dealing with today have no correlation to the supply chain woes of the past.”
Speaking of the past, enjoy this item from the Sept. 4, 1937 edition of Traffic World.
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Any opinions in this blog represent the author’s views, not the Journal of Commerce, IHS Markit, or S&P Global.
Thanks for subscribing to this newsletter. For those that don’t know me, I’ve been the senior editor for trucking and domestic transportation at The Journal of Commerce and JOC.com since 2009. Before that, I spent 13 years as managing and executive editor at Traffic World, a weekly magazine once owned by the JOC, and also worked at Transport Topics. I got my start in this business with Fleet Owner, a monthly magazine then owned by McGraw-Hill.
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