Commerce Express Weekly Road Map:

February 28th, 2023

Keeping you informed on the latest news/insights in our industry.

Commerce Express Blog

Railroads and Unions Are Making Sick Deals-01

Last December, when the government stepped in and forced a new labor agreement between the railroads and rail workers, a concern of workers was left unanswered. The very concern that almost drew negotiations to the point of nationwide rail strikes and lockouts.

Sick leave was left on the bargaining table after December’s agreement. Rail workers, represented by several unions, felt defeated. Despite receiving competitive PTO packages, workers believe sick leave is the only way to ensure they can take time off in case of a sudden emergency without fear of being reprimanded.

Read More Here

Red truck transport with container on winter road

Trucking Update

U.S. Truck Tonnage Levels in January Were Better Than Expected 

Truck tonnage – which is the total weight in tons transported by the motor carrier industry for a given period – in January dropped 0.4 percent from December, but was still slightly higher than the reading in January 2021, per the JOC 

Additionally, the seasonal adjustment turned the slight drop in tonnage to a 0.7 percent gain, which points to ATA expecting a deeper fall-off for freight in January than the reported 0.4 percent decline.  

Some also say that some of that seasonally adjusted gain is due to capacity coming out of the network, mainly those in the spot market or those who bought expensive used equipment in the past few years.  

FMCSA Considering Loosening Restrictions for Truck Driver Trainees

Currently in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) program drivers between the ages of 18-20 are not allowed in the program without holding a CDL – having a CDL is one of the prerequisites for those younger drivers that want to be trained by a carrier under the program.  

However, restrictions may be loosened regarding the apprenticeship pilot program after the FMCSA recently received a request asking that the CDL restriction be lifted for its trainee drivers as they believe it would be less difficult to recruit drivers to participate in the program. 

This has the FMCSA considering lifting the restriction for all carriers that are in or want to register for the program.  

The FMCSA is seeking comments on this consideration.

Did You Know: Some Updates Regarding the Ohio Train Derailment

The U.S. EPA has informed Norfolk Southern on where they need to dispose of waste from the derailment site in Ohio, partly due to some states concerns of having the waste deposed in their communities.  

The EPA has asked NS to ‘accelerate’ their cleanup, which the railroad will do by moving the solid waste to a couple of sites in Ohio. 

Going forward, the EPA will review NS’s disposal locations and transportation routes for contaminated waste. 

Cargo train travelling through desert.
Rail Update

Norfolk Southern Reaches Sick Leave Agreement with Some Workers

Joining Union Pacific and CSX, Norfolk Southern has reached a sick leave agreement with members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – Employees Division.  

The agreement, would potentially impact 3,000 workers and would allow the workers to be allowed up to seven paid sick days per year.  

Previously the BMWED members had no sick leave, though they were provided short-term disability by the Railroad Retirement Board, per Freightwaves 

Additionally, NS says they are working with all of its unions to further improve quality of life and work predictability for their employees.  

The EPA and DOT Announce Actions to Increase Safety and Accountability in the Freight Rail Industry

In the wake of the NS train derailment that occurred in Ohio carrying hazardous materials, federal agencies have put together new measures in order to increase and improve safety and accountability in the industry.  

Officially, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered NS to “conduct all necessary actions associated with the clean up from the train derailment.”  

The Department of Transportation also announced plans, saying they are committed to advancing a staffing rule to require at least two train crewmembers for most railroad operations, initiating new inspection programs for trains carrying hazardous materials, and deploying Bipartisan Infrastructure Law resources to modernize rail infrastructure.  

The DOT also called on Congress and the rail industry to take further measures in increasing safety and accountability.  

Total U.S. Rail Traffic for the Week Ending February 18th, 2023 

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 466,932 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.5 percent compared to the same time last week – data from the Association of American Railroads shows 

Total carloads for the week were 229,227 carloads, which was down 3.9 percent compared to the same time last year. As U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 237,705 containers and trailers, which was down 8.8 percent compared to the same time last year.  

Motor vehicles and parts, petroleum and petroleum products, and farm products (excluding grain and food) all saw increases compared to the same time last year. While coal, grain, and miscellaneous carloads all posted decreases.

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