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Chemical shippers critical of rail service and delays

By Bill Stephens | January 21, 2022

In survey, companies report transit delays of eight days or more

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Logo of American Chemistry Council

Logo of American Chemistry CouncilWASHINGTON — Chemical shippers give railroads low marks for their service, with the majority experiencing moderate to severe delays, reduced local service, and missed switches.

That was the result of an American Chemistry Council member survey about their shippers’ experience with railroads and other modes in the third quarter of 2021. The trade association wrote to the Surface Transportation Board last week in a letter that was posted to the board’s website this week.

Most chemical shippers said their transit times were typically eight days longer than usual, although some said delays stretched more than three weeks.

The chemistry council singled out CSX Transportation for having the most significant service problems, including 44% of customers reporting severe delays and service issues. That was by far the highest total among the Class I railroads, with Canadian National in second place with 13% saying they experienced severe delays.

CSX executives said this week that service has been affected by persistent crew shortages, partly due to the tight labor market and partly due to the impact of COVID-19 infections and quarantines that sideline active train crews. CSX’s carload traffic posted 68% on-time performance in the third quarter and improved slightly in the fourth quarter as the railroad has ramped up its hiring efforts.

The chemical producers said the delays and service snafus forced them to lease additional freight cars, pay more for special switches, and resort to shipping half-loaded cars because of delays in receiving raw materials.

Shippers also were critical of other modes, including trucking, ports and ocean shipping, and inland waterways.

5 thoughts on “Chemical shippers critical of rail service and delays

  1. When the railroads lose chemicals, the game is over.

    My annual survey of industries switching to trucks includes a Milwaukee chemical plant.

  2. Always the whining about crew shortages. They are self-inflicted, dummy. Engineer’s and conductor’s jobs used to be full time, and the pay was great as a result. Now it’s laid off today, re-hired next month, laid off again a month later; wash, rinse, repeat. Who in their right minds needs that kind of “work”?

  3. Funny. When you read that shippers are PO about service and delays CSX seems to to be on top of there list most of the time.

  4. Sure. Covid has caused some problems. But cutting a large number of T & E to get that OR down has absolutely nothing to do with it. Or cutting mechanical and carmen while cars sit for days or maybe weeks sidelined by a defect. Nor massively long trains that fit nowhere or breakdown and tie up not only the railroad, but entire communities. NAH. It’s all covid.

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