Posts Tagged ‘Union Pacific’

CSX, CN Seek to Block New STB Rate Rule

January 11, 2023

CSX, Canadian National and Union Pacific have gone to court to try to block implementation of a U.S. Surface Transportation Board rule seeking to streamline the settlement of small rate disputes with shippers.

CSX filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit challenging an arbitration process that the STB plans to launch as part of the new rules, which the agency said are designed to make it easier, faster and less expensive for shippers to initiate cases seeking up to $4 million in relief over two years.

The rules were adopted in December as part of a new process called Final Offer Rate Review. The rule drew applause from shippers but was attacked by the Association of American Railroads as unworkable.

UP filed a similar lawsuit in the appeals court for the Eighth Circuit seeking to block the STB rule. CN’s challenge of the rule was filed in the Seventh Circuit appeals court by its U.S. subsidiaries, Illinois Central and Grand Trunk Western.

A sticking point in the small rate case rules is the arbitration component. STB wants all Class 1 railroads to agree to binding arbitration while the railroads have called for voluntary arbitration.

The AAR has argued that the Final Offer Rate Review process exceeds the agency’s legal regulatory authority.

AAR s position is that the effect of the new rule is that regulators will choose and impose the rate proposed by the shipper or the rate offered by the railroad.

The trade association also has been critical of the requirement that all Class 1 railroads must agree to participate.

The STB for its part has sought to frame the new rule as striking a balance between competing interests.

Class 1 Railroads Eye Ground-Based Conductor Position Pilot Programs, Giving Workers Sick Days

December 15, 2022

Union Pacific is reportedly amenable to granting sick days to its operating workers. At the same time the Class 1 carrier is talking with its unions about launching a pilot program to move conductors to ground-based positions, something that Class 1 railroads sought but failed to achieve during the most recent negotiations to amend the labor contract with 12 railroad unions.

UP contends that moving conductors to trucks would give them more predictable work schedules and make the job more efficient.

Conductors would be assigned to a fixed base and thus would be able to return home every night.

Trains magazine reported the developments in a pair of stories posted on its website.

The ground-based positions – which UP is calling “expediters” – were discussed by a UP vice president during a hearing held this week by the Federal Railroad Administration on a proposed two crew member rule.

UP’s argument to the FRA is that positive train control has significantly reduced the conductor’s tasks and a ground-based worker would be better able to handle troubleshooting and fixing mechanical problems encountered while a train is out on the road.

Busy mainlines would have multiple “expediters” on duty at all times.

The Trains story also reported that Norfolk Southern is talking with its unions about a similar pilot program.

During the hearing, Tom Schnautz, NS vice president of advanced train control, said the carrier wants to use ground-based conductors in local service.

Schnautz said a conductor would arrive at a customer facility to line switches and perform other tasks before a train arrives.

The Trains story about the FRA hearing can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/union-pacific-details-plans-to-test-feasibility-of-ground-based-conductors/

As for paid sick leave, UP CEO Lance Fritz said during a U.S. Surface Transportation Board hearing on UP service issues that he would favor sick leave for union workers and providing certainty regarding scheduled days off.

“We definitely want to address sick leave and certainty in time off in terms of scheduling … There’s a host of ways we can get there,” Fritz said. “There’s economics that are available to make that happen. And we are committed to making that happen this coming year.”

UP is conducting a pilot program in Kansas that makes work schedules for locomotive engineers more predictable.

Richard Edelman, a lawyer representing several rail unions including the SMART-Transportation Division, said during the hearing that union workers are angry about the way they have been treated in recent years.

“I don’t think you can even calculate the fury over the lack of personal time, the lack of sick time, the furloughs of their coworkers,” he said.

Edelman said some railroad workers are likely to leave their jobs once they receive back pay and a one-time bonus dictated by a new national contract.

The Trains story can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/union-pacific-wants-to-provide-rail-labor-with-paid-sick-days-more-predictable-schedules/

Investors Pushing for Paid Sick Leave at NS, UP

December 6, 2022

Activist investors plan to seek shareholder resolutions urging railroads to grant paid sick leave to all railroad workers.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the non-binding resolutions have been filed at Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

At NS the resolution was filed by Impact Shares. “We believe paid sick leave to be essential to protecting and maintaining one of a company’s – and the economy’s – most important assets: workers,” Impact Chief Engagement Officer Marvin Owens said in a statement. “Paid sick leave should not be seen by companies as an expense, but as a prudent investment – an insurance policy that will promote a strong workforce and, by extension, a healthy economy.”

The resolution could be voted on by NS shareholders next spring.

The Trains report said quoted Bascome Majors, an analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group, as saying providing workers with paid sick time could cut railroad earnings by up to 2 percent.

Paid sick days became a sticking point in recent negotiations to amend the contract governing wages, benefits, and work rules with 12 railroad labor unions.

The contract dispute was eventually “settled” when Congress adopted a resolution imposing a contact on the unions that increased wages but did not give them any paid sick days.

That contract was based largely on recommendations of a presidential emergency board that said unions and individual railroads should negotiate the sick leave issue.

The Association of American Railroads has sought to frame the issue by saying that in past negotiations unions decided to forgo paid sick days in favor of higher wages.

The AAR also has noted how much vacation time railroad workers receive and how railroaders can take personal leave days for any reason.

Unions have countered that these require advance approval from railroad management and are inadequate to cover sudden and short-term health matters.

The Trains article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/report-shareholder-resolutions-seek-paid-sick-time-for-rail-workers/

Trial UP Program Shows How Railroads Might Make Crew Schedules More Predictable

November 9, 2022

A pilot program that Union Pacific is operating in Kansas may become a first step toward bringing more predictable schedules to train operating crews across the nation.

Trains magazine reported on its website that a UP vice president speaking at a transportation conference outlined the basics of the plan that would see locomotive engineers told which 11 days they would work and which four days they would be off.

Eric Gehringer, executive vice president of operations, said the “11 and four” plan would govern work assignments in 15-day periods.

He said the Class 1 carrier is working with its unions to oversee the 60-day trial plan.

“It’s something we have to do through the collective bargaining agreement. We can’t just instantly put that across the system,” Gehringer said.

Unpredictable work schedules are a primary grievance that unionized rail workers have had in recent years. The issue has hung over negotiations for a new contract for Class 1 railroad workers.

The railroad work environment also has been implicated in crew shortages that have hindered UP, BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Executives at those carriers have blamed crew shortages for several issues they’ve experienced in the past couple years that have drawn the ire of rail shippers.

Speaking at the Baird 2022 Global Industrial Conference, Gehringer said UP might seek to extend the practice being tested in the trial program to the rest of its system although there may be some variations in how it is conducted. The trial program began Nov. 1.

4 Class 1s Must Continue Reporting Service Data to STB

October 30, 2022

Four Class I railroads will continue to submit data about performance and employment to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board for another six months.

The regulatory authority last May ordered BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific to submit service reports in the wake of freight service deficiencies that were the subject of STB hearings.

The railroads have since been giving updates pertaining to their performance and labor force targets, and any service recovery plan modifications.

The reports the railroads must submit are in addition to similar data they had already been providing to regulators.

The additional reporting called for the four carriers to further explain efforts to correct service deficiencies.

In its most recent order, the STB said the early reports “revealed extensive service delays and reliability problems.”

That included one carrier that failed more than half the time on average to deliver railcars in manifest service within 24 hours of the original estimated time of arrival.

Another carrier reported failing more than one-third of the time on average to deliver grain and ethanol unit trains within 24 hours of the original ETA.

In an order released Oct. 28, the STB said, “The most recent data show that the four carriers are currently meeting some of their six-month targets for service improvement, and many key performance indicators are trending in a positive direction.

“However, the data continue to validate the anecdotal information that continues to be reported to the Board regarding significant service issues. Key performance indicators, such as velocity, terminal dwell, first-mile/last-mile (FMLM) service (i.e., industry spot and pull), operating inventory, and trip plan compliance show that railroad operations remain challenged generally, and particularly when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels.”

The Oct. 28 STB order, though, said the four carriers will not be required to continue to participate in individual biweekly conference calls with the Board’s Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs and Compliance.”

UP Sets Ferry Move of Steam Locomotives to Illinois

October 27, 2022

Locomotives and other equipment being donated by Union Pacific to an Illinois-based railroad museum is slated to move on Nov. 11-19.

The “Heritage Donation Special” will move two steam locomotives, a Centennial diesel locomotive, and other equipment between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Silvis, Illinois, to the Heritage of Midwest America facility.

Among the locomotives in the move are Challenger No. 3985, Class TTT 2-10-2 No. 5511, Centennial DDA40X No. 6936, and an E9B passenger shell.

The ferry move will make maintenance and display stops en route including on Nov. 12 in North Platte, Nebraska.

No public access is planned for the overnight stops in the Nebraska cities of Sidney and Grand Island, and the Iowa cities of Council Bluffs, Boone and South Amana.

The ferry move will be pulled by diesel locomotives.

UP Tweaks New Locomotive Livery

September 20, 2022

Union Pacific has tweaked the design of its new locomotive scheme by changing the design of the American flag that appears on the flanks of the nose.

The flag will now feature the waving design similar to the one that has adorned the long hood for the past 20 years.

UP also has reduced the size of the herald that appears on the locomotive nose.

In an earlier announcement UP had said it was moving the flag because the flag decals applied to the long hood did not stand up well to wear and tear.

UP Steams up ‘Big Boy’ to Move Locomotive

September 16, 2022

Union Pacific steamed up its 4-6-6-4 “Big Boy” this week but it didn’t pull a train out on the mainline.

Railfan & Railroad magazine reported that the 4014 was used to move 2-10-2 No. 5511 out of a roundhouse in preparation for its move to Silvis, Illinois.

UP has donated the 5511 to Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, which is based in a former Rock Island repair shop in Silvis.

Also slated to move to Silvis is 4-6-6-4 “Challenger” No. 3985. The Midwest America group plans to restore both locomotives.

Last Wednesday, the “Big Boy” moved the 5511 back and forth through the yard to test various systems.

Rhetoric Continues to Rise in Contract Dispute

September 14, 2022

A ninth railroad labor union has reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in contract talks.

In the meantime, various shipper trade associations continued to apply pressure on Congress  to settle the dispute to avoid a strike or lockout that could occur as early as Friday.

President Joseph Biden also called top railroad management executives and union leaders to lobby them to settle the contract dispute, which a union president said on Monday is stalled over railroad attendance policies.

The latest union to reach a tentative agreement is the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers.

A news release from the union said the tentative pact implements the recommendations of a presidential emergency board of a 24 percent compounded wage increase over the five-year length of the contract, which covers the period of 2020 through 2024.

Workers would receive retroactive pay to cover 2020 and 2021 and parts of 2022. They also would receive five annual $1,000 lump sum payments.

That leaves three unions, which represent locomotive engineers, conductors and signal workers still at the bargaining table. The 12 railroad labor unions represent 125,000 workers.

The latest agreement came as various parties in the dispute continue to heat up the war of words.

Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, said on Monday that worker attendance policies are the primary unresolved issue in the contract talks.

Pierce said during an appearance on cable news network CNBC that BNSF and Union Pacific in particular are being adamant about refusing to modify their attendance policies.

“We’re just looking for time away from work to address our medical issues,” Pierce said.  “Union Pacific and BNSF attendance policies are assessing [penalty] points to our members when they just want to take time off for their regular medical appointments.”

In response, BNSF told CNBC that Pierce’s claims were false while UP said it was continuing to push for a “prompt resolution” to avoid a shutdown of the national freight rail system. 

In a related development, leaders of the SMART Transportation Division union told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that lawmakers should let rail labor contract negotiations play out.

In a letter to Congress SMART-TD legislative director Greg Hynes said union members would reject a tentative contract based on the recommendations of the PEB by a 3-to-1 margin.

Hynes also said in his letter that the top issue in the contract talks is not wages but working conditions.

He said the carriers “are still refusing to provide our members with minimal provisions to improve their overall quality of life, and to recognize their contributions to the industry and to the American economy.”

The PEB appointed by President Biden earlier this year was largely silent on work rules, saying  only that they should be negotiated at the local level between the railroads and the unions.

Unions have described the attendance policies that railroads have imposed as “draconian.”

“Through egregious and excessive absenteeism policies, the railroads have taken away our members’ ability to be a worthy parent and dependable spouse; and they have eliminated any realistic means for an employee to receive medical services or care for a sick child without being assessed discipline or termination,” Hynes wrote.

The PEB did recommend that workers receive one additional paid day off.

The Association of American Railroads said in a statement that workers have numerous ways to take time off, including paid vacation, sick leave and supplemental sick leave policies through the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.

The AAR statement said crews also can mark off for any reason “if they maintain a reasonable level of overall availability under carrier attendance policies.”

BNSF said its workers generally get three to five weeks of paid vacation and 10 to 14 paid holidays or personal leave days, and received a 25 percent increase in personal leave days.

UP officials said it “understands our employees want a different way and process … to request and receive time off for things like medical appointments. We are in active discussions with the unions to try to address these concerns.”

In the meantime, several trade organizations have called on Congress to intervene to head off a strike and/or lockout.

They include the National Industrial Transportation League, one of the largest and oldest group of rail shippers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“NITL members and shippers of all sizes in all regions continue experiencing dismal freight rail service due primarily to the implementation of precision scheduled railroading. Any disruption in freight rail service will negatively impact our nation’s international competitiveness while making inflation even worse which is affecting all Americans,” Nancy O’Liddy, executive director of the NIT League, wrote in a Sept. 12 letter to congressional leaders.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a strike would be an “economic disaster.”

On Monday, President Biden and members of his cabinet held emergency meetings in Washington and have been talking with the parties in the labor dispute.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it “is initiating oversight and enforcement efforts to ensure safety during any potential interruption of rail operations.”

UP Releases Photos of New Locomotive Livery

July 27, 2022

Union Pacific has released two photographs of the new locomotive livery that is now making it way into the system.

The new look tweaks the existing livery by moving the U.S. flag to the locomotive nose, dropping the wings from the nose, enlarging the UP shield on the nose, and reviving the practice of placing in red letters the UP name on the locomotive’s long hood.

UP operates about 7,400 locomotives and has said it will take some time before they are repainted into the new look.

In a related development, news reports indicate the Class 1 carrier is launching a $1 billion program with Pittsburgh-based Wabtec to rebuild 600 older UP locomotives.

Wabtec told the Associated Press that this is the single biggest investment in locomotive modernization it has undertaken.

The locomotive manufacturer is working with Norfolk Southern in a similar program to rebuild 330 Dash 9-44CW units into AC44C6M diesels by 2025.