Articles by: Go Media
The threat of a potential U.S. freight train rail strike had Cleveland trucking carriers steeling their fleet and operations to help absorb at least some of the would-be mammouth impact. A last-minute tentative agreement struck with the intervention of the U.S. Department of Labor may have offset the immediate threat, but the whole ordeal underscores just how vital trucking services can be when other elements of intermodal transportation are jeopardized.
The New York Times reported tens of thousands of rail workers had threatened to strike in pursuit of better working conditions. Such action would have a catastrophic impact on supply chains across a vast range of industries throughout the U.S.
Rail moves an estimated two-fifths of long-distance U.S. freight and one-third of exports. The stakes of a potential shut down were very high – particularly as there isn’t a ton of slack in the trucking sector. If you are an organization that relies on the timely movement of goods across the country or the globe, this close call underscores the importance of securing a third-party logistics partner with strong connections to reliable Cleveland trucking carriers who can help arrange alternative transport and delivery methods in the face of unexpected hurdles. And let’s face: Unexpected hurdles of all stripes are almost a given with global supply chains.
A rail strike and increased reliance on Cleveland trucking carriers would mean substantial delays and higher costs. But it’s worth noting that truckers are already responsible for carrying nearly three-fourths of the nation’s goods as it is.
If all of America’s 7,000 long-distance daily freight trains were brought to a halt, the American Trucking Associations estimates it would require some 460,000 additional long-haul trucks daily to meet the current demand. Although there is no longer a trucking shortage, there isn’t much of a surplus either.
As our Cleveland trucking carriers can explain, rail is a central component of our complex global supply chains, which rely on the carefully-coordinated movements of cargo ships, freight trains, and trucks. This is known as intermodal transportation, and it helps to effectively eases the movement of goods across air, sea, and land. Compromise one of those links in the supply chain, and there will be a near-immediate domino effect to the system – one that has already been under significant strain since the pandemic.
Still, rail is generally recognized as the weakest of the three intermodal supply chain links. It is less flexible in responding to demand surges and bottlenecks. Over the last five years, as carriers have sought to limit service to lower costs as part of a strategy known as Precision Scheduled Railroading, nearly a quarter of rail worker jobs have been slashed. Rail companies say the reconfiguration has been an effort to become more agile and responsive to supply chain demands and challenges.
There are 12 railroad unions that form the National Freight Rail Bargaining. This coalition uses its combined power to push for employee labor demands. The most recent disputes concerned matters like higher pay, better working conditions, more paid time off, and schedules that are more flexible. (Attendance policies in particular have been a huge point of contention.)
There hasn’t been a U.S. railroad strike 30 years – and the impacts of that one in 1992 were immediate and serious. It took only three days before Congress intervened and a new contract was brokered.
Negotiations for the current rail worker contract have been ongoing for three years. Recognizing the potential harm this might do, the White House and U.S. Labor Secretary stepped in, brokering a tentative agreement. However, it’s still not officially finalized, meaning our Cleveland trucking carriers are still gearing up for the possibility the deal could fall through. The new contract won’t become final until members review the terms and approve it with a ratification vote.
Still, companies might still want to prepare for setbacks just in case. Some retailers are already diverting Asian goods that typically come through West Coast ports to those on the East Coast, at places like Newark, Savannah, and Charleston. Cleveland trucking carriers’ routes frequently take them to-and-fro at these ports. The added demand could mean an uptick in trucking rates, but worth it for many organizations if it means their goods arrive in tact and on time.
If a rail strike were to still happen now or in the coming months, our Cleveland trucking and logistics experts opine it probably wouldn’t last long. Too many industries are too deeply invested, and the pressure to resolve matters quickly would be enormous. The government’s heavy-handed involvement at the final hour is further evidence of that. But even a short-lived strike could have wide ripple effects, so companies would do well to plan for that possibility.
If you are a Northeast Ohio firm that relies heavily on rail transport to move your import/export goods, diversifying your mode of transport and collaborating with a third-party logistics firm with trucking capabilities may improve the overall security of your supply chain.
For information on Trucking, 3PL, and Warehousing Services in Cleveland, Contact On Time Delivery & Warehouse by calling (440) 826-4630 or send us an email.
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