Supply Chain in DANGER…Strike Looming

Starting on September 12, all six of the Class I freight rail carriers will begin taking steps to secure “shipments of hazardous and security-sensitive materials.” The companies are all in contract talks with their workers and the last thing they want are carloads of explosives or hazardous chemicals laying around on track sidings when the strike hits.

Rail carriers take measures

A statement issued by the Association of American Railroads on Friday, September 9, notes the precautions are necessary “in light of the possibility of a rail labor strike.

Tank cars full of “chlorine used to purify drinking water and chemicals used in fertilizer” are prime targets for terrorists. The strike isn’t certain but the companies can’t afford to get blind-sided if there is one.

Railroads are taking all measures necessary to handle sensitive cargo.” They have to, because federal regulations say they must “ensure that no such cargo is left on an unattended or unsecured train.

That’s not going to be good news for companies who use rail to ship those materials. “Freight customers,” the AAR warns, “may also start to experience delayed or suspended service over the course of next week, as the railroads prepare for the possibility that current labor negotiations do not result in a resolution and are required to safely and securely reduce operations.

They have to do this whether they like to or not. “While these preparatory actions are necessary, they do not mean a work stoppage is certain.” Rail carrier “representatives will continue meeting throughout the weekend of September 10-11 with the unions who have not made tentative agreements.

That includes the two biggest, SMART-TD and BLET. From what AAR said, it sounds like the companies are ready to fork over the cash.

A prompt resolution

The railroads want, and continue to advocate for, a prompt resolution that would provide historic wage increases to rail employees and allow the railroads to continue servicing customers and prevent further disruption to the struggling supply chain,” the AAR statement notes.

Railroads may be ready to dicker but the deal hasn’t been reached yet. “SMART-TD and BLET remain opposed to a tentative deal, and the carriers remain opposed to extending the status quo cooling off period.

Right now, the “possibility of a strike by unions representing more than 90,000 workers at the nation’s freight railroads has businesses nationwide worried.


Rail unions are “poised to go on strike on September 16, a move that could bring nearly 30% of the nation’s freight to a grinding halt.” Just in time for Christmas.

Economists note this is “about the last thing the US economy needs as it struggles to get over several years of supply chain issues. A prolonged strike could mean empty shelves in stores, temporary closures at factories that don’t have the parts they need to operate, and higher prices due to the limited availability of various consumer goods.

John Drake, vice president for transportation, infrastructure and supply chain policy for the US Chamber of Commerce is nervous about the rail situation. “We’re hearing more and more that shippers and the railroads are getting anxious. The chamber is calling on the two sides to reach a deal that avoids the first national rail strike in 30 years.” At least if it happens, the explosives will be safely stashed away.

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