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You remember the old song, “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad, all the live-long day…” Well, far fewer people are singing that song these days and one United States senator is pretty concerned about that for U.S. farmers.

“We know that rail service is how some of our producers get their products to market, and any cessation, especially when you’re talking about perishable products, is a critical issue,” says Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin.

She’s on a quest for answers about severe staffing shortages causing challenges with the nation’s railroads. She’s calling on the six Class One railroads to address those shortages.

“We were on the verge of a strike just a couple of years ago here in the U.S. that was averted with last-minute negotiations. I have several layers of concerns with staffing issues. The freight rails tend to want to have fewer staff, which raises safety issues. I think you can’t have a mile-long train without having adequate personnel as a matter of safety.”

Baldwin points to data saying railroads reduced their staff by 30 percent between 2011 and 2021. That’s compared to only a three percent decrease in carloads and a one percent drop in tons of freight during the same period.

Baldwin says the issue extends beyond the US borders.

“When we hear about the prospect of strikes in Canada, the disruptions that could then impact the United States are very significant, and some of the freight rail, as you know, are Canadian owned.”

The Surface Transportation Board said in an April 2022 hearing that staffing shortages were a major reason for exceptionally poor service levels.

Source: NAFB News Service