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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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How a national railroad strike might impact Central Texans

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) – “The impact is huge,” said Eldon Featherston, director of operations for the Round Rock and Pflugerville Community Truck Driving School.

He followed contract negotiations between the railroads and unions threatening to shut down rail service.

Discussions have been going on for months and failure to reach an agreement by December 9 could mean a strike.

“Single [rail] The car can tow three to five semi-trailers. So if they close, we already have a truck shortage,” Featherston said.

He estimates there is a shortage of around 65,000 to 100,000 truckers, a need that the rail strikes will triple.

“There aren’t enough drivers and equipment today to handle the freight we see on the highways and roads today,” Texas Trucking Association President John Esparza said.

In an average month, Featherston says, it produces 30 to 40 licensed truck drivers, and almost all find employment within the first two weeks of completing the program.

“My phone is off the hook while I’m waiting for a job offer or filling out an application,” said Alan Thomas, a current student at the community truck driving school, who has about two weeks left. .

Thomas decided to pursue his career after having children and realizing that paychecks were good to start with.

“In my life, I’m tired of, you know, having low-paying jobs,” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s a lot of careers I can do and put 70s or 80s on the right track.”

Featherston said the railroad strike would not only mean more truckers would be needed to deliver goods, but drivers would also have to travel farther to get their goods.

“Much of the freight arrives by rail, then goes to the hub, then is delivered by truck from the hub. So if they can’t get to the hub, which means these trucks are actually getting to those ports, that’s going to be a major primary backup, you’ll see until it goes down,” he explained. .

Gasoline prices for trucks will rise and that will trickle down to consumers, he said.

Featherston said just the ethanol needed to transport the trucks by rail would cost 30-40% more if they switched to non-ethanol fuel.

Esparza said not only will demand for natural gas increase, but supply will likely slow — and soon.

“The railroad will begin planning next week to stop shipping hazardous materials, including fuel,” Esparza said. “Fuel is definitely going to be an area that will be more directly impacted, perhaps more than most other things this holiday season.”

The Texas Trucking Association signed a letter to Congress Monday along with dozens of other groups.

Halting rail services would immediately lead to shortages and higher prices for items such as food or chemicals used in sewage treatment, they said.

The groups said closing the rail would cost $2 billion a day.

President Joe Biden has also called on lawmakers to step in and pass legislation that would force unions to accept new contracts.

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