William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, now beneath Republic Administration Inside the 118th Congress, held its first listening to on Feb. 1, “State Of yank Infrastructure And current Chain Challenges,” listening to testimony from Affiliation Of yank Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Ian Jefferies, American Trucking Affiliations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear, Hamilton Enchancment Vice chairman Jeff Firth (testifying on behalf of the Associated Widespread Contractors of America (AGC), Port of Houston Authorities Director Roger Guenther, and Transportation Trades Division, AFL-CIO President Greg Regan.
Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) opened his first T&I listening to by stating that he “Did not assist IIJA, [however] settle for That It is the regulation of the land.” He furtherly said that “vulnerabilities within our transportation community have been laid naked By way of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been solely made worse by stifling regulations.”
“Bananas, Gasoline, Bread, Hen, Eggs, Potato Chips and Postage”
AAR’s Jefferies focused on The regular themes Which have been careworn in pretty A pair of Capitol Hill listening tos, yr after yr: An abstract of the enterprise and its financial and environmental advantages; the exemplary protectedty doc; the 1980 Staggers Rail Act; railroads are particular personal corporations that make investments billions of Their very personal money and pay taxes; The want for “stabilityd regulation,” and so on., and so on., however embellished with Converse about submit-pandemic labor shortages, current chain disruptions And restore factors, and the progress that has been made with restoration efforts. His full written testimony Might be dpersonalloaded under. Following are excerpts:
“America’s freight railroads are Joyful with the super position they play Inside the U.S. financial system. The operations and capital make investmentsments of America’s primary freight railroads assist A million or extra jobs And a quantity of completely different hundred billion dollars in nationwide financial exercise, wages, and taxes. Shifting freight by rail implyingabsolutely reduces greenhouse gasoline emissions. In 2021, U.S. freight railroads moved a ton of freight A imply of almost 500 miles per gallon of gasoline, making railroads three to 4 events extra gasoline environment nice than vans. Safety is The inspiration of every thing the railroads do, and the previous decade has been the protectedst in rail historic previous. The practice accident price in 2021 was dpersonal 30% from 2000; The worker damage price was dpersonal 47% and the grade crossing collision price was dpersonal 23%. … Common rail prices (measured by inflation-adjusted income per ton-mile) have been 44% decrease in 2021 than in 1981. Modifications in rail prices over time examine favorably to changes Inside The prices of issues we buy Daily (like bread and potato chips).”
“Railroads know rail service over the previous yr has not been what their clients want or deserve and are absolutely dedicated to restoring service to a persistently extreme diploma … Over the previous two yrs, railroads, Collectively with almost every completely different enterprise, have found that attracting and retaining enough staff To fulfill their wants has been A critical problem. The pandemic turned labor markets The incorrect method up. When rail visitors collapsed, railroads deployed An prolonged-standing Stpricegy of briefly furloughing some staff. As a Outcome of the financial system recoated faster than anyone anticipated, and demand for rail service surged, far fewer furloughed staff chosen to return than historic patterns would advocate, leaving railroads with out enough workforce. We now know that furlough insurance coverage policies Need to be careabsolutely reviewed To assemble extra resiliency into the system To raised journey financial ups and dpersonals.”
“Railroads stay firmly dedicated to make investmentsing in and rising their operations To reinformationrce and Increase restore, as evidenced by the plans introduced by A lot of the railroads to expand performance (citing BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and CSX capex tasks) … Railroads are making these make investmentsments because They Need to develop with their clients through a protected, fluid and reliable community.”
“Knowledge reported by particular person railroads and compiled by the Floor Transportation Board (STB) level out that railroads are making progress on Quite a Little bit of key service metrics. A current STB report said that railroads are meeting six-month targets for service enhancement, with key efficiency indicators trending in a assembleive course.”
“The historic agreements reveryed Inside the spherical [of nationwide collective bargaining in 2022] have been based mostly on the advocateations of impartial arbitrators apleveled by President Biden and have been facilitated immediately by senior members of his Administration. These agreements include a 24% wage enhance, The Most very important compensation will enhance seen Inside the enterprise in roughly 50 yrs. Additionally they primarytaInside the railroads’ platinum-diploma healthcare plans, current further paid Day off for all recurrented rail staff, and set up a course of and timeline for the railroads to work immediately with the working craft unions to make further work guidelines changes this yr Which will enhance predictability and extreme quality of life for these staff who presently have the least predictable schedules.”
“Wright hereas completely different Division of Transportation modal enterprisees are working to assist greater automation and the protectedty advantages that accompany such know-how, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)—railroads’ prime protectedty regulator—stands alone in its efforts to lock in yesterday’s regulatory approaches. Congress can assist the objective of attaining greater outcomes through new know-how by making sure the FRA Discover your self to bes more and more forward-wanting in The biggest method it proposes and promulgates new guidelines, notably when innovation can enhance protectedty … [One] event of FRA failing To know the significance of know-how in enhancing protectedty is the July 2022 Discover of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that, for all intents and features, would mandate two crew members in a locomotive cab. Proponents of a two-particular person crew mandate for railroads, together with current FRA management, say It’d enhance rail protectedty. Tright here’s not A information to assist this declare.”
“America’s railroads are healthful precisely As a Outcome of of regulatory stability that [the 1980 Staggers Rail Act] usright hered in. Sadly, some rail enterprise critics want policymakers to re-impose extreme regulations and worth controls on railroads. The STB is presently contemplating a quantity of proposals Which might Do precisely that. If this occurred, the rail enterprise Wouldn’t disappear in a single day, however over time its bodily plant would deterioprice, wanted new performance Wouldn’t be added, and rail service would Discover your self to be sdecrease, much less responsive, And fewer reliable. Really, the STB does, And will, play a productive position in adjudicating disputes between shippers and railroads, however extreme government intervention into particular personal exercise solely risks sending the enterprise backwards.”
“Railroads are bullish on 2023 and past. In The Prolonged time period, demand for freight transportation will develop as our financial system and inhabitants develop, and railroads are In all probability the Best, value-efficient and protectedst Method To fulfill a lot of this rising demand.”
Editor’s Commentary: Such listening tos—Whether or not or not they’re presided over by Republicans or Democrats—are little Greater than political theater that accomplishes virtually nothing. The AAR most definitely has greater issues to do with its time than, As quickly as extra and again, current a Highschool-diploma primer on railroads to principally cluemuch less politicians, however I suppose it’s an unavoidable An factor of the job. I give A lot of credit rating to Ian Jefferies and the AAR staff for patiently trudging over to the Rayburn House Office Constructing Theater, statistics and ego-sprucing microfiber cloths in hand, when summoned. Maybe It isn’t tiring. Maybe It is. I don’t know, And that i don’t anticipate anyone to say A method or The completely different, on the doc. What I do know is that the important work on Capitol Hill is being carried out behind the scenes by organizations Simply like the AAR, ASLRRA and RSI with Congressional staffers Who’re hopeabsolutely greater educated on the enterprise than their bosses, out of The general public spotlight.
Maybe not surprisingly, excerpts from Greg Regan’s as-anticipated testimony, By which he said that “labor unions, The staff they recurrent, and even this Administration—which signed In all probability the most consequential infrastructure and home manuactualityuring funds in generations—have all been scapegoated … The fact is, As a Outcome of The start of the pandemic, firms have vacuumed up huge, doc-setting income,” Weren’t included in Graves’ press launch summarizing the listening to. Inform me politics as ordinary aren’t in play right here.
By the method, I don’t have a bag of inflation-seasoned potato chips I can munch on after digesting all this. My spouse And that i don’t primarytain them Inside the house. They’re tasty however unhealthful. We do, neverthemuch less, love a beneficiant serving of current Italian bread, Which could value a heck of Much extra if the uncooked supplies used to bake it have beenn’t transported in coated-hopper railcars. – William C. Vantuono